24 June 2013: ICT-1 Daily Summary – Chowdhury Testimony and Defense Applications

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury

Today in the Chowdhury case the Tribunal heard three petitions filed by Defense. The first petition requested review of the June 13th order limiting the Defense to 5 witnesses. The second requested adjournment of the case until the terms of reference are disposed off in the Abdul Qader Mollah case at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. The third application requested that Serial No. 31 of the seizure list be designated as illegal. After hearing arguments from both parties the Tribunal fixed 26 June for passing its order. Thereafter, Tribunal heard the testimony of Defendant Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, Defense witness 1, for the sixth day and adjourned the proceedings of the case until 26 June 2013.

Defense Applications
Application for Review of Order Limiting Defense Witnesses
Regarding the first petition, the Defense argued that following the judgment of the Tribunal and Rule 51 the burden of proof as to the plea of alibi, or to any particular fact or information which is in the possession or knowledge of the Defense, rests solely upon the Defense. They argued submitted that there is no rule or section providing for the limitation of Defense witnesses and that the Tribunal had limited the witness number arbitrarily. The Defense submitted that in order for them to “shake” the credibility and cast doubt on the truthfulness of the Prosecution witnesses’ testimony they would need more than 5 Defense witnesses. They argued that the limitation of 5 Defense witnesses would prejudice the Accused and requested that the Tribunal review their order and allow a reasonable number of Defense witnesses. The Prosecution countered that submitted that Rule 50 shows that the burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt lies upon the Prosecution. Therefore they requested that the Tribunal reject the petition.

Request for Adjournment Pending Disposal of Terms of Reference in Qader Molla Appeal
The Defense submitted that the High Court had requested 7 amicus curiae to present briefs before the Court regarding retroactivity of the ICT Act and its subsequent amendments. They requested that the Tribunal adjourn the case until the matter has been clarified by the High Court. The Prosecution submitted that the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court asked 7 amicus curies to place submission on retroactivity of the appeal provision, not of the whole ICT Act, and therefore argued that the application should be rejected.

Application for Exclusion of Seizure List Serial No. 31
The Defense’s third application requested seizure list Serial No. 31 be declared illegal. They argued that the Tribunal may admit any evidence including reports and photographs published in newspapers, periodicals and magazines. However, there is no rule or section describing photocopies as admissible. The Defense submitted that the documents did not contain the signature of  MM Hasan, the maker of the documents. They alleged that that the document is not a true photocopy of the original documents and that the Prosecution had committed fraud upon the Tribunal by providing false documents. The Prosecution disagreed and stated that there is no rule or section in the ICT Act allowing the Tribunal to declare exhibited documents as illegal.

Examination-in-Chief of Chowdhury – DW 1
Defendant Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, testifying as Defense witness 1, stated that all charges brought against him are totally based on the proposition that he was a political follower of his father, the late A.K.M Fazlul Qader Chowdhury. His father was the president of the Pakistan Convention Muslim League in 1971 and a supporter of the Federation of Pakistan. Chowdhury claimed that the Prosecution has failed to establish that he had the mental state required by the charges and is relying only on the genetic and biological link between him and his father. The witness testified that his father joined the Khaksar Party under Allama Mashriqi, and not the Khilafat Party as he had previously testified in error. Chowdhury testified that his father entered into district politics of Chittagong as secretary of Chittagong District Muslim League in 1944 and in 1945 was arrested on charges of treason for allegedly delivering a seditious speech against the British Raj in a public meeting. He stated that the Muslim League Parliamentary Board did not nominate his father as a Muslim League candidate for elections to the Bengal Assembly in 1946 despite the strong support of Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardy. In protest young Muslim League leaders of Kolkata, including Advocate Formanullah Khan, Mazhar Kuddus, and Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led a demonstration in front of Muslim League office in Kolkata. Chowdhury said that his father was expelled from the Muslim League in 1954 for contesting elections in the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly as an independent candidate. Nonetheless he said that his father defeated both Jukto Front and Muslim League candidates in that election.

After the lunch break, the Chowdhury continued testifying regarding his father’s political career. He stated that his father was expelled from the Pakistan Convention for the Muslim League in 1966 and served as an independent member until the promulgation of Martial Law in 1969 by Yahya Khan. At that point he was inducted back into the party and in 1969 or early 1970 he was elected as President of Pakistan Convention Muslim League. He testified that General Yahya Khan promoted a new faction of the Muslim League led by Khan Abdul Qyum Khan of NWFP. Chowdhury stated that Yahya Khan ordered the seizure of all assets and party funds of the Convention Muslim League in an attempt to pressure his father into following Yahya Khan’s personal agenda for the future politics of Pakistan. In early 1968 Chowdhury said his father was interrogated several times by the Director of Central Intelligence and Joint Director of Combined Military Intelligence on his association with some Bengali members of the armed forces in relation to the Agartala Conspiracy Case. After the general elections held in 1970 his father issued a public statement urging Yahya Khan to hand over power to Banghabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as leader of the majority party in the newly elected National Assembly.

Chowdhury testified that as a resident of Dhaka since 1966, he was privy to the political development in Dhaka and also to his father’s social and political interactions in Dhaka. He testified that at that time he acted as the caretaker of his father’s house in Dhanmondi and as his father’s personal chauffeur until he (Chowdhury) left Dhaka for Karachi on 29 March 1971. Chowdhury claimed that during the negotiations between Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and General Yahya Khan before the crackdown on 25 March 1971, his father and Banghabondhu were in close touch with one another as recorded by many news publications.

Courtroom Dynamics and Administrative Notes
Before the lunch break, the witness submitted that it is very difficult for him to give testimony during both sessions due to his old age and requested an adjournment. The Tribunal did not allow the request. However, after the lunch break the witness suddenly fell sick while he was providing testimony and Tribunal adjourned the proceeding for the day.