23 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

Today the Tribunal heard the fifth day of testimony from Defendant Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, testifying as Defense witness 1. The witness testified that political persecution is an occupational hazard for politicians in Bangladesh, more so for politicians with a populist image and holders of elective office. He testified that during the Caretaker Government’s rule following the military coup of January 2011 (popularly known as 1/11), many politicians were persecuted through theof  filing spurious charges aimed at debarring them from elections or holding elective office. Chowdhury stated that the current persecution of populist leaders is only a continuation of similar objective pursued by the 1/11 “bandits,” i.e. to debar populist politicians from contesting elections. 

Chowdhury testified that he has been an active participant in the competitive environment of pluralist democracy since 1979. He stated that he won in each and every election to parliament with a plurality of votes invariably defeating Awami League nominees by vast margins. He testified that the ICT Act of 1973 was focused specifically on the prosecution of members of armed forces, members of defense, paramilitary and auxiliary forces. He noted that while the original bill introduced to Parliament included the words ‘including a person,’ that term was subsequently omitted on  the direct instructions of Banghabondhu, Sheikh Mujhib Rahman. Chowdhury claimed that the amendment of the ICT Act 1973 in 2009 by the current 9th Parliament inserted ‘individuals or group of individuals’ in section 3, making 160 million people eligible for prosecution under the ICT Act 1973. The witness testified that during the amendment he was the ranking Member of the Standing Committee for Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, which vetted the bill and submitted a report to the Parliament without any Note of Dissent. The witness testified that the bill was passed into law on 14 July 2009 as prospective legislation and that section 1 of the amending legislation reads ‘it shall come  into force at once,’ implying that it was not meant to be retrospective. Chowdhury testified that he has been held in arbitrary detention since 19 December 2010 and to this date has not been served a detention order. He claimed that he had been served with avsummons by the Honorable President of the Republic to attend sessions of Parliament and had filed petitions expressing his intention to respond to the Presidential summons but that the “Honorable Tribunal in its judicial wisdom declined the petitions.”

After the lunch break, Chowdhury testified that attempts have been made in the formal charges to paint his father as a highly communal individual, intolerant of peoples of other faiths. His father’s association with the Muslim League has been characterized as a continuous process. The witness testified that his father joined the Indian National Congress as a disciple of Netajee Subash Chandra Bose and worked with him till the day Netajee left India for Rangoon. Thereafter, his father joined the Khilafat Party of Allahmah Masriqi for about 6 months, during which his father was elected as Vice President of Carmichael Hostel. Despite having served in the highest office in the federation of Pakistan as acting President of Pakistan and Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Chowdhury stated “my father always considered and took great pride in having presided over the public meetings of Netajee Subash Chandra Bose at Gorer Mahte.” Chowdhury claimed that between 1940 and 1971 there were no communal disturbances between Muslims and Hindus in the greater district of Chittagong, in contrast to the record of communal violence in the neighboring district of Noakhali. He stated that during this period his father “emerged as an uncrowned populist king of Chittagong.” Contrary to the statement of the formal charge, Chowdhury asserted that as a mark of recognition tofor, his father’s leadership of the students of Muslim Bengal his father was elected as Secretary General of All India Muslim Student Federation with Raja Shaheb of Mahmudabad as President in 1942. Thereafter, Tribunal adjourned the proceedings of the case until 24 June 2013

Courtroom Dynamics and Administrative Notes
The accused continued his testimony without taking an oath. , The Prosecution continued to argue that the witness’ testimony is irrelevant to the charges, referringto  Rule- 51A (1), 53(3) and section 17(1) of the ICT Act 1973. They requested that the Tribunal regulate the ongoing testimony of the Defendant. The Defense argued that there is no provision to limit time for deposition. The Tribunal asked the witness how many days he would take to complete his examination-in-chief. He first said he could not say. Tribunal then asked the witness to complete his examination-in-chief within the next two working days (24 June and 26 June as 25 June is a government holiday). The witness replied that it would be impossible for him to complete his deposition within two days.