18 June 2013: ICT-1 Daily Summary – Chowdhury Testifies as DW 1

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury
  2. Contempt Proceedings vs. Adam Roberts of the Economist and Others                                    

Today the Tribunal had scheduled the hearing of Adam Roberts’ reply to the Tribunal’s show cause notice, issued on 6 December 2012 in relation to the Economist’s publication of portions of alleged Skype conversations between the former Tribunal 1 Chairman and foreign lawyer Ahmed Ziauddin. On 25 March 2013, Mustafizur Rahman submitted a reply on behalf of Economist. Today, 18 June 2013 counsel on behalf of Roberts sought additional time. The Tribunal granted the prayer and schedule 18 July for the hearing.

The Tribunal then heard ongoing testimony from Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, who took the stand as Defense witness 1.

Chief Prosecutor vs. Chowdhury: Defendant’s testimony as DW 1
Chowdhury continued his testimony from the previous day, testifying that he entered into politics in late 1978. During his first day of testimony the witness had claimed that the first paragraph of the Formal Charge states that the two-nation theory is the primary cause of all communal strife in Bangladesh. Today, the witness described this as “an attempt by the prosecutors/ persecutor to oppose and deride the two-nation theory for which late Bangabondhu personally sacrificed so much, and which amounts to a blatant and audacious proposition for the Balkanization or more relevant Sikkimisation of Bangladesh representing a treacherous challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bangladesh.” The Prosecution objected to the use of the term “prosecutor/prosecutors” and Tribunal recorded the statement substituting ‘the Prosecution’ instead. They also deleted the last part of the statement: “for the Balkanization or more relevant Sikkimisation of Bangladesh representing a treacherous challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bangladesh” from the record.

The witness described himself as Chittagonian by birth. Chowdhury testified that Chittagong has never in history been part of Bengal. The witness testified that the “Chittagonians have their own distinct language, culture, heritage, history, strengths and frailties, aims and ambitions, habits and aptitudes, pride and prejudices and finally sense and sensibilities by all counts of centrifugal nationalism.” The witness testified that the peoples inhabiting the geographical territory of Chittagong can claim, like the 300 nationalities of the Indian federation, a distinct identity.

After the lunch break, the witness testified in detail about the battle of Palashi, the Khilafat movement and Swadeshi Andolon. Thereafter, Tribunal adjourned the proceedings of the case until 19 June 2013.

Courtroom Dynamics and Administrative Notes
The Judges did not begin proceedings until 11:25 am because they had scheduled the hour between 10 and 11 for privileged communication between Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and his lawyers. Additionally, only two judges were present during the proceedings as the Chairman is on leave. Chowdhury continued his testimony without taking an oath as he argued that he is already under oath to uphold the Constitution of Bangladesh as a acting Member of Parliament.

As on the first day, Chowdhury continued to testify primarily in English. This continued to present logistical problems as the court reporter was struggling to record the English testimony. Additionally ongoing arguments between the Defense and Prosecution over Chowdhury’s statement, phrasing, and the spelling of various English words slowed proceedings. The Prosecution again argued submitted that the witness’ testimony is not relevant to the charges and requested that the Tribunal regulate the amount of time accorded for his testimony. The Tribunal told the witness to keep his testimony concise.