28 July 2013: ICT-1 Daily Summary – Chowdhury Prosecution Closing Arguments

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. Mobarak Hossain

In the Chowdhury case the Prosecution began their Closing Arguments, addressing charges 1, 2 and 3. The Defense also filed an application seeking adjournment stating that Shamim Hasnain is willing to testify in the case and has requested permission to do so from the Chief Justice. They requested adjournment until approval is granted. The Defense also attached a letter sent by Salman F Rahman (one of the proposed DWs) to the registrar in which the potential witness stated that he is currently out of the country, has fallen ill and has been instructed by his doctors to recover prior to traveling. The Tribunal responded that if it decided the application merited hearing it would appear in the cause list the next day.

In the case against Mobarak Hossain today was scheduled for the examination-in-chief of Prosecution Witness 7. However, due to the Closing Arguments in the Chowdhury case the Tribunal rescheduled the witness’ testimony for 12 August.

Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury
Prosecution Closing Arguments:
The Prosecution began their closing arguments by summarizing the procedural history of the case. They then began summarizing their case on a charge by charge basis. The Prosecution described Salauddin Qader Chowdhury as the de facto leader of anti-independence movement, whereas his father Fazlul Qader Chowdhury was described as the de jure leader. The Prosecution alleged that the Accused’s father, Fazlul Qader Chowdhury, was a member of cabinet, speaker for Pakistan and the then President of the Convention Muslim League. They stated that the father committed crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes throughout the district of Chittagong. They stated that Salauddin Qader Chowdhury actively contributed to and was personally involved in these crimes.

Charge 1
The Prosecution submitted that on the 4th or 5th of April 1971, at about 9 pm, Chowdhury instructed a group of Pakistani army members to go to the house of Motilal Chowdhury where they abducted 7 unarmed civilians. The Prosecution argued that Chowdhury had been informed by Abdus Sobhan about the meeting of some persons held in the house of Motilal Chowdhury, and that as the son of Fazlul Qader Chowdhury and with the intent to destroy in whole or in part the Hindu community, he ordered the abduction of these civilians. The Prosecution stated that these 7 civilian persons were taken to ‘Goods Hill,’ Chowdhury’s family home. Among them, Sunil was stabbed with a knife but was allowed to leave because he was very young. The other 6 persons were inhumanely tortured and killed in the presence of the Accused. The Prosecution stated that abduction and torture are crimes against humanity and that the killing of members of a religious group such as the Hindu community constitutes genocide. Chowdhury’s presence indicates his complicity in crimes against humanity and genocide.

In support of charge 1, the Prosecution referred to the testimony of Prosecution witness 18, Debabrata Sarkar, who is a hearsay witness. He testified that on April 4 or 5 Debabrata’s father Arbindo, his uncle Aurun Bikash Chowdhury, Jogesh De, Shanti Kusum Chowdhury and Poritosh Dash came to Khatungonj of Chittagong to bring back Motilal Chowdhury (Debabrata’s uncle) to their village home. Debabrata said that no one returned to their village. The next day Motilal Chowdhury’s cook, Sunil, arrived at their village home spattered with blood. Sunil told him that Abdus Sobhan came to Motilal Chowdhury’s drawing room at night and asked Debabrata’s father and others why they were meeting there. After 15 or 20 minutes the Pakistani Army arrived at the house and took 7 persons, including Debabrata’s father and Sunil, to Goods Hill. After that the Pakistani Army released Sunil due to his age. Sunil went back to Khatunganj, Chittagong where Abdus Sobhan stabbed him saying that he should not be allowed to get away because he would be a witness to the incident. However, Abdus Sobhan’s mother saved Sunil and sent him back to Debabrata’s village home. Debabrata testified the next day Farid Ahmed and others suggested that they leave their home and look for safe place to hide. That night two persons from Gonimiahr Hat came and warned them that Salauddin Qader Chowdhury had ordered that action be taken against Debabrata’s family so that no male person in the family would remain. All of the men of their family then went into hiding, taking shelter in different temples and houses of the Buddhist community. Debabrata said that they were also warned that a plan has been made to forcibly convert the family to Islam and to marry the female family members to Muslims. Hearing this plan the rest of the family members also went into hiding. Debarata alleged that the next morning they found their house had been looted and set on fire.

Debabrata said that after the Liberation War he and his family returned to Chittagong but that their house and village home had been destroyed. He claimed that they searched for his father and uncle and heard from some people that they had been sent to Pakistan, while others said that they were killed after being tortured. He also claimed that he heard that those Fazlul Qader Chowdhury spared the lives of those who he captured, but that those who fell into the hands of Salauddin Qader Chowdhury did not survive.

The Prosecution described Goods Hill as a torture cell. They asserted that as per Debabrata’s testimony about Chowdhury ordering action to be taken against Debabrata’s family to kill all male family members, Chowdhury’s intention to destroy the Hindu community in whole or in part had been clearly demonstrated. The Prosecution argued that Debabrata was 9 years old when he heard the alleged incident from Sunil. They stated that Sunil is now dead, as acknowledged during the cross-examination. The Prosecution claimed that the Defense was unable to shake the credibility of the witness and that even if Prosecution witness 18 is a hearsay witness the testimony of the witness has probative value because he gathered the information from Sunil, who was also taken Goods Hill with the victims.

Charge 2
The Prosecution next read out charge 2 under which Salauddin Qader Chowdhury is accused of accompanying the Pakistani Army to Maddhaya Gohira Hindu Para and concudting a raid on the area. It is alleged that he detained unarmed Hindu civilians in the courtyard doctor Makhon Lal Sharma’s house and that in the presence of the Pakistani Army his accomplices opened fire killing Poncha Bala Sharma, Sunil Sharma, Joti Lal Sharma and Dulal Sharma. Dr Makhon Lal Sharma also died after 3 or 4 days. Joyonta Kumar Sharma was seriously injured and was alive for some years as a handicapped person. The Prosecution claimed that the accused committed the offence of genocide by killing the people of the Hindu community and causing serious bodily and mental harm to the members of the group.

In support of charge 2 the Prosecution relied on the testimony of Prosecution witnesses 3, 6 and 29. Prosecution witness 3 provided hearsay evidence. The Prosecution first read out the testimony of Nirmal Chandra Sharma, Prosecution witness 6. Nirmal testified that on the morning of the 13 April he and his family were planning to leave their house but suddenly heard someone announcing over a microphone outside that no one should leave their houses as the Peace Committee had been formed. Nirmal testified that after hearing this announcement his uncle Jotilal Sharma, who had already left to go to his in-law’s house at Hathazari, came back to the house. A bit later the witness, his brother Shunil Sharma, and his nephew Dulal Sharma were sitting down to eat when they saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and members of the Pakistani Army in front of their door. Nirmal testified that among them one of the armed soldier asked them to came out from the house, assuring them that they would not be killed. When they exited the house two men began pointing their gun at Nirmal. His family became very upset and was crying for the men not to kill him. The Pakistani Army then instructed them to go back into their house. About 5 minutes later they saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and members of the Pakistani Army dragging his uncle, Dr Makhon Lal Sharma, out of his house and into the courtyard. Witnessing this he and his family went outside and were begging for them to spare his uncle. The Pakistani Army told made them stand in a line facing west side. Then, the Pakistan Army and Salauddin Qader Chowdhury began shooting from about 15 feet away. Nirmal testified that he fell down and saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and the Pakistan Army soldiers going back towards the east side of the house.

Nirmal testified that after they left he found his mother Ponchobala Sharma, nephew Dulal Sharma, brother Sunil Sharma, and uncle Jotilal Sharma dead. He stated that his uncle Dr Makhon Lal Sharma was shot in the head and died after couple of days. Nirmal testified that his father Joyonto Kumar Sharma was shot in his left hand and left leg, fracturing the bone. Hearing the sounds of shooting, Nirmal’s brother Bimol Sharma came to the area and together he and Nirmal left for Gorduara village. Nirmal testified that they returned that night and found his father Joyonto Kumar Sharma and uncle Dr Makhon Lal Sharma still alive. His father told them to leave and they took shelter in the house of Ali Chowdhury. From there they crossed the Rangamati road wearing tupi (the cap worn by Muslim men) and were helped to escape into India by foot.

The Prosecution argued that this attack was committed with the intent to destroy the Hindu religious community in whole and that it is evident from Nirmal’s testimony that the neighboring Muslim family did not face the cruelty of the Pakistani Army. The Prosecution concluded that Salauddin Qader Chowdhury’s presence and involvement in the crimes is evident from Nirmal’s testimony.

Additionally, the Prosecution argued that Nirmal’s testimony was corroborated by the testimony of Prosecution Witness 29, Shubol. Shubol testified that in 1971 he was 9 years old. He testified that in 1971 hearing the shooting once (did not specify date /time) and that he and his family left to seek safety in Binajuri. On the way they heard the sound of more shooting coming from their house and hid in the bushes for an hour. Shubol testified that they then returned home to try and find out what had happened. There they found the bodies of Poncha Bala, Shunil, Dulal and Joti Lal, who had been shot and killed. They also found Makhon Lal and Joyonta in the courtyard, injured but alive. Shubol testified that seeing the scene they left again. He stated that after the Liberation War he heard that Kazi Farid buried the corpses of these persons at the bank of the nearby pond.

The Prosecution argued that the Defense was unable to shake the credibility of the witness during cross-examination and that Shubol also corroborated that members of the Muslim Para were not attacked, showing that the Hindu Religious community was specifically targeted.

Thereafter, Prosecutor read out the testimony of Prosecution witness 3, Sirajul Islam alias Siru Bengali. Prosecution said that Siru Bangali in his testimony said that on 13 April from dawn to dusk the Salauddin Qader Chowdhury along with Pakistan Army committed crimes in the Hindu majority area. Siru Bengali further testified that Captain Karim told him that the only reason for such killing is the defeat of Fazlul Qader Chowdhury by Awami League candidate in the election of 1970. Prosecution submitted that during cross-examination in answer to a question Siru Bengali said that Captain Karim died in September 1971.

Charge 3
The Prosecution then read out charge 3 under which it is alleged that on 13 April 1971 at about 9:30 am or 10:00 am Salauddin Qader Chowdhury led the Pakistani Army to Kundeshwari Owsadalay of Gohira where the conducted a raid. During the raid they attacked Sree Nuton Chandra Singh, pulling him from his prayer room and, at the instruction of Chowdhury, shooting him. To confirm his death, the Prosecution claims that Salauddin Qader Chowdhury again shot him. The Prosecution stated that this act constituted a crime against humanity.

The Prosecution referred to the testimony of Prosecution witnesses 1, 3, 4, 5, 14 and 18 in support of charge 3. Among these witnesses, Prosecution witness 4 and 14 are eye-witnesses, whereas Prosecution witnesses 1, 3, and 5 provided hearsay testimony.

Gourango Singh, Prosecution witness 4, testified that on 30th Chaitro (a date in Bengali year, which Prosecution described as 13 April 1971) he, Himangso Boiddo, Brojohori Kormokar, Gopal Dash (PW 14) and Nuton Chandra Singh were at the house trying to convince Nuton Chandra Singh to go into hiding. However, Nuton refused to leave his house. While he was talking with Nuton Chandra, Gourango saw a military jeep pull up in front of the house. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, some other Bengalis including Mabud, and some members of the Punjabi Army came out of the car. Gourango testified that he, Himangso Boiddo, and Monoronjon Singh fled towards the bush, while Brojohori Kormokar and Gopal Dash ran to the first floor of the house to try to hide. After some time he heard the sounds of the jeep and thought that the jeep had left.  But 10 or 15 minutes later he again heard the jeep returning. Shortly after he heard the sounds of shooting. He testified that they left the bush and fled south, sending Muhammad Boshor back to the house to check what happened. Boshor informed Gourango that he saw the corpse of Nuton Chandra in front of the temple. Hearing this, Gourango along with Himangso Boiddo, Monoronjon Singh, Voskor Borua, Ahmed Boshor rushed back to the site where they saw that Nuton Chandra had been shot on the left side of his mouth and in the left side of his chest.

After that Gourango left for Binajuri and then fled to India. 8 or 10 days after Bangladesh’s victory over Pakistan, Gourango, Sotho Rangon Sing, and Profulla Sing (PW 5) returned to their home. Gourango testified after his return Brojohori Kormokar came to meet with him and told him that at the time of the killings he (Brojohori Kormokar) and Gopal Dash were on the first floor of the house and that they saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury with some Bengali and Punjabi military members talking to Nuton Chandra Sing. They left briefly then returned to the spot, abducting  Nuton Chandra Sing and shooting him. Brojohori also told Gourango that after two minutes of the shooting by the Punjabi military Salauddin Qader Chowdhury again shot Nuton Chandra.

The Prosecution next read out the testimony of Gopal Chandra Dash, Prosecution witness 14. Gopal testified that by 10 April the professors and all residents in the Kundeshori building had left for India except Nuton Chandra Sing. Gopal Chandra testified that on the morning of 13 April he went to Kundeshori building to meet with Nuton Chandra. When he arrived Himangso Boiddo, Brojohori Kormokar, Monoronjon Singh, and Gourango Singh were already talking with Nuton Chandra, standing in front of the temple. Gopal testified that he warned them that he had heard shooting nearby and that they should all leave immediately. Shortly after, they saw a jeep stop in the courtyard of the building. A Pakistani Army officer and some civilians exited the jeep. Gopal said that someone in the group identified one of the civilians as Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and another one as Mabud. Gopal stated that he and Brojohori Kormokar ran and hid on the first floor while the rest ran towards the bush to hide .

From the window Gopal said he saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, a Pakistani Army officer, one or two soldiers and one or two Bengali civilians talking with Nuton Chandra. They left briefly but came back after 8 or 10 minutes. He saw them dragging Nuton out the temple and shooting him. He further testified that he saw Salauddin Qader Chowdhury fire two or three rounds at Nuton Chandra. Gopal also claimed that he heard Salauddin say that his father had instructed them to kill Nuton Chandra. Gopal then he left the building and fled south to India.

The Prosecution then summarized the testimony of Profulla Ranjon Singh, Prosecution witness 5, who is the son of Nuton Chandra. Profulla testified that on 13 April at 4 pm while he was in Ramgor Jotish Dor witness Gourango informed him that his father had been was killed. Profulla testified that after returning home he found out who killed his father and how he was killed. He testified that Brojohori Kormokar and Gopal Das told him the details of the event.

The Prosecution also summarized the testimony of Anisuzzaman, Prosecution witness 1. Anisuzzaman testified that on the 20 or 22 April he met with Profullo Sing in Ramgor and asked about Nuton Chandra Sing. Profulla informed him that the Pakistani Army was instigated by Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and had killed Nuton Chandra Sing. Anisuzzam further testified that Profulla told him that he heard from Gopal Dash and others that after the Pakistan Army shot Nuton, Salauddin Qader Chowdhury also shot him.

Finally, the Prosecution read out the testimony of Sirajul Islam alias Siru Bengali, Prosecution witness 3. Siru Bengali testified that he heard from Karim that on 13 April 1971 Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, with the help of the Pakistani Army, killed Nuton Chandra Singh. Prosecution submitted that Prosecution witness 18, Debabrata Sarkar, also had stated that he had heard that Nuton Chandra was killed.