Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury
The Tribunal heard the examination-in-chief and cross-examination of Prosecution witness 28, Poritosh Kumar Palit. The witness is the son of an alleged victim of the Accused.
The witness first provided personal details about his education and where he lives. He testified that in 1971 he was 27 years old and a teacher at the R.A.B.M High School in Rangunia, Chittagong. He testified that on 25 March 1971 there was widespread political unrest in the country and activists from the Muslim League in his area torched and looted houses of the Hindu community and additionally raped many women.
At the time his father worked writing GDs, Complaints and Diaries. Around 10 or 11 April 1971 his father decided that the family should seek shelter at Khetro Mohon Biswash’s home, which was 3 or 4 miles away from their house. The father remained at their home.
Poritosh testified that on 14 April 1971, after the death of the Principal of Kundashori, Notun Chandra Shing, he went to visit his father and asked him to leave the house and return to Biswash’s home with Poritosh. His father refused to leave. The witness testified that after that he saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, along with members of the Pakistani Army, come to the house. He testified that he hid himself in a bush and watched as Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and Panjabi soldiers engaging in an altercation with his father. At one point the witness alleged that Salauddin Qader Chowdhury shouted to the soldiers “that person is dangerous, kill him!” Poritosh testified that after hearing this the Panjabi soldiers told his father to go into the house, but when he turned the soldiers shot him two times in the back. His father fell and the soldiers then covered him with two blankets which they covered with some sort of chemical powder and lit on fire. The witness stated that once the soldiers left to inform his family members about his father’s death. They later left the country for India because they felt unsafe.
The witness claimed that the family went to Kolkata via Shabrum, Agortola and Dharmotola. Once in Kolkata he taught students at his maternal uncle’s house and his family members went to the refugee camp. After the Liberation War they returned to Chittagong via Khulna and Chadpur and found their house destroyed. He said that they took shelter in a store they owned in Fakirhat. After rebuilding their house they returned to their property. He acknowledged that he was interviewed by the Investigation Officer. He identified Salauddin Qader Chowdhury in the dock.
The Defense began by asking about the details of how the witness and his family reached India. Poritosh acknowledged when they started for India they had no Indian currency and he could not remember whether there was a money changer in Shabrum. He testified that he and his two brothers began their journey for India from his aunt’s house. He described the route they took saying they went to Dabua, then Vujpur, Heako and Ramgor where they stayed one or two days. They then went to Shabrum and collected refugee cards. He stated that he did not take a lot of money with him and cannot remember how much specifically.
Poritosh did not remember whether he saw members of the Pakistani Army on Rangamati on 14 April 1971 , but said that on the way to his aunt’s house he saw a couple of Beluch soldiers. He stated that on April 14 he went to his own house from North Gujra. He testified that those who live-in teachers are known as “house tutors.” He testified that from his aunt’s house to Ramgor is about 50 or 60 miles. He claimed that his aunt also went to India with them. He said that his aunt resided in the Biswash Para. He said that his aunt had many neighbors but none of them went to India with them. He could not remember the names of people he talked to on the way to India, except one Mridul who is still living.
Poritosh testified that 14 April 1971 was a Thusday. He said that Thusday and Sunday are the fixed Hat days (temporary market) in Fakirhat. He stated that in 1971 his family rented their store to others. The Army did not burn their store.
The Defense asked about the ages and professions of various persons in his family, as well as their property holdings. Poritosh said that in 1971 his father held lots of properties in Nolbil, Arimollah Bill and Shurjo Bill. He testified that he did not receive a death certificate from Union Parishad for his father. The Defense suggested that his father did not in fact die as alleged on April 14, 1971. The witness denied the suggestion.
Poritosh said his father had no enmity with Salauddin Qader Chowdhury in 1971 and that he (Paritosh) had not seen Chowdhury before 1971. The Defense asked him about what he knew of the Chowdhury family at the time. He admitted that there were always rumors about the Chowdhury family around election time, and that he had read about the family in newspapers. Poritosh said he did not know whether between 1979 and now Salauddin Qader Chowdhury was ever elected as a Member of Parliament from Rawzan . He admitted that the present UP chairman of Rawzan Kazi Hasan is close to Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and a supporter of BNP. He admitted that the present Member of Parliament from Rawzan Fazle Karim Chowdhury is the cousin of Salauddin Qader Chowdhury.
Poritosh admitted that he did not tell the Investigating Officer about the killing of the Principal Notun Chandra Shing during his original interview, but denied that anyone instructed him to add it to his courtroom testimony. He said he had not heard that the Pakistani Army killed anyone they found on the Rangamati road on 14 April 1971 when he alleged that he was traveling. He admitted that in Pakistan there were different languages including Panjabi, Poshtu, Shindi and Urdu.
At this point the Prosecution attempted to interject, however, Defense counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena stopped them loudly and asked why they were interrupting during his examination.
Poritosh affirmed that on 14 April 1971 the military of the Panjabi regiment went to their house. He admitted that the soldiers did not enter any other house in the area that day. He claimed that the neighborhood was empty. Could not remember whether he visited any neighbors before the incident. He claimed that the Pakistani army soldiers remained in the house for about half an hour.
Again the Prosecution and Defense counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena began arguing at this point. The Chairman of the Tribunal asked the Prosecution not to repeat the answer given by the witness. In reply, Prosecutor Sultan Mahmud Simon said that they needed ensure the protection of the witness, but did not clarify the meaning of the remark.
Poritosh said that when the Pakistani army entered his house there were no “screaming neighbors” because the neighborhood was empty. However, he admitted that none of his neighbors left the country for India with his family. He said they (neighbors) left fo Irndia separately but admitted that he did not personally see them depart. He clarified that he heard about them going to India from different people including Pizush Palit, Shojol Palit and Reba Palit, all of whom are living. Justice Jahangir Hossain interrupted at this point and instructed the witness to speak more slowly and to give them time to write down his testimony. Poritosh did not remember whether he met any of his neighbors in Ramgor.
Poritosh testified that the Augroni Club is their local club and located in Palit Para. He testified that it had 50 to 60 members, all of whom went to India in 1971. He denied hearing of the Hindu, Buddha and Christian Oikko Parishad. He testified that the Investigation Officer interviewed him at the Chittagong Circuit House. He could not remember who was present during the interview. He admitted he had heard of Prosecutor Rana Das Gupta and acknowledged Rana Das Gupta went to Poritosh’s house (during the investigation of this case. He denied meeting with Montu Babu, son of Notun Babu. He denied that RAB came to his house in order to transport him. He said that he showed the Investigation Officer the bush where he hid himself during the incident and the place where his father was shot. He said that no one came to the scene after the Pakistani Army left and he did not know whether his neighbors witnesses any part of the alleged shooting or not.
The Tribunal then concluded for the day. The Chairman asked Ahsanul Huq Hena to finish the cross-examination within the first hour of tomorrow’s proceedings.