Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
In the case against Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, who are being jointly tried in absentia, the Tribunal heard the testimony of Prosecution witness 16. Both the examination-in-chief and cross-examination were completed today. The testimony of Prosecution witness 16 supports Charge 6, which alleges that they were responsible for the abduction and killing of Professor Gias Uddin Ahmed, among other intellectuals.
In the case against Abdul Alim the Defenst resumed its cross-examination of the Investigation Officer, Prosecution witness 35. The Defense’s questioning focused on the investigation procedure followed by the Officer and the authenticity of various documents submitted into evidence.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin
Ms. Farida Banu, the sister of victim Professor Gias Uddin, testified as Prosecution witness 16. She began her testimony by stating that she currently resides in Dhanmondi R/A. She is a teacher by profession and taught at the Eden College from the year 1962 to 1973. She joined Dhaka University in 1973 as a lecturer of Mathematics and retired in the year 2005 as an Assistant Professor.
The witness stated that she is the sister of martyred intellectual Professor Gias Uddin Ahmed. She described Gias Uddin as a truthful and honest person who was straight forward did not hesitate to raise his voice against West Pakistan’s discriminatory treatment of East Pakistan. In 1969 Rajshahi University’s Proctor was killed by police gunshots in the presence of Pakistani Army. The witness testified that this news reached Dhaka University campus around 11 pm and resulted in protests between students and the Pakistani Army. The witness said that her brother Gias Uddin was the one who resolved the tensions and convinced the students to return home.
The witness said that in 1971 after the crackdown on 25th March 1971, Gias Uddin told his students that Pakistan was a drowning nation and East Pakistan’s separation from West Pakistan was only a matter of time. Farida Banu testified that after this period many Dhaka University lecturers and professors were taken into custody by the Pakistani Army, including the Bangla Department’s Professor Rafiqul Islam and Social Science Department’s Professor Saad Uddin. The witness said that professors Dr Wadudur Rahman, Dr Jahurul Huq, Gias Uddin, all professors of Dhaka University, were also taken into custody by the Pakistani Army in September 1971 for questioning. They were released after two-days of interrogation. The witness claimed that a group students from Mohsin Hall, who were affiliated with Islami Chatra Shangha, were behind all these detentions.
On 13th December, 1971, the witness was called by the police who asked her and her husband to leave their Azimpur residence. The witness said that the Indian Air Force fighters were flying all over the skies of Dhaka on that day. The witness’s brother Gias Uddin came to visit their house and convinced her and her husband Nurul Haque to take Shelter in Gias’s Dhaka University residence.
On 14th December, the witness woke up early in the morning to find that her brother Gias was not home. He had gone to the water pump to see what is wrong with the water supply. At around 8 am a muddy microbus came and stopped in front of Gias Uddin’s house. The witness saw this from the balcony and watched as a few young men got out of the microbus, two of whom were armed. These men knocked on door on the 1st Floor and asked whether Gias Uddin was home. When informed that he was not home the men left. Soon after however, they returned and conducted a thorough search of the house to ensure that Gias was not hiding inside. The witness said during the search there was a slight argument between the men and Ratna (PW 1), Gias Uddin’s neice. The men then left for Mohsin Hall to look for Gias Uddin there. They took Mr Golam Kibria, cousin of the victim Gias, with them.
Farida Banu testified that she later found out that her brother Gias Uddin was abducted by these armed men. Syed Anwar Hossain (PW-5, A colleague of the victim’s, came to their house and said that he was had witnessed the incident. Ratna (PW-1) claimed that she had identified Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin amongst those who came to their house to look for Gias Uddin.
The witness stated that unknown numbers of Bangladeshi intellectuals were annihilated that day, many of whose bodies were never found. Some of the bodies were later recovered based on the information of one driver Mofiz who drove the mud covered microbus. He stated on 4th January 1972 (it is unclear from the witness’ testimony who he told) that Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman were behind the whole killing. Gias Uddin’s body was later recovered from a mass grave in Mirpur on 5th of January 1972 and was buried beside the Dhaka University mosque. The body of Professor Shontosh was also recovered. Dr Abul Khayer, Dr Anwar Pasha and Dr Fazlul Karim also died in the killings of intellectuals. Soon after, various newspapers including the Daily Purbodesh reported on the brutal killing of intellectuals and alleged that Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman were the masterminds behind the whole dark episode. The reports included photographs of the two Accused. A two page diary, famously known as “Jollad er Diary” (Executioner’s Diary), was also published in newspapers, showing a hit list of intellectuals with tick marks beside the names of those who had already been annihilated. The witness said that the diary allegedly belonged to Ashrafuzzaman Khan.
The state appointed defense counsel for Ashrafuzzaman conducted his cross-examination of the witness first. He began by suggesting that Ms Ratna (PW 1), the niece of Gias Uddin, had never met Ashrafuzzaman before the incident in question and therefore could not have recognized him. The witness replied that Ratna was a student at Dhaka University and thus knew the Ashrafuzzaman by face. The witness also stressed that she still has the newspaper clippings containing the photographs of the Accused which were published after Bangladesh’s victory in December 1971.
Ashrafuzzaman’s counsel further suggested that the diary being referred to as “Jollad er Diary” did not belong to Ashrafuzzaman and that Ashrafuzzaman was not even in Dhaka at the time in question. He alleged that Ashrafuzzaman Khan left Dhaka University in 1970 after graduating and stated that the Accused was not in any way affiliated with Al-Badr.
Counsel for Mueen Uddin adopted the cross-examination conducted on behalf of Ashrafuzzaman and additionally suggested that many Dhaka University teachers and colleagues of the victim were gravely opposed to Bangladesh’s struggle for independence and wanted to remain a united Pakistan. She suggested that it was these pro-Pakistan professors who were responsible for the abduction of their colleagues like Gias Uddin, and who handed them over to the Pakistani Army to be killed. The witness disagreed with these suggestions and strongly voiced that such allegations were false.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
Today the Defense continued with its cross-examination of the case Investigation Officer, focusing on technical aspects of the investigation procedure.
The Defense directed the witness’ attention to Material Exhibits I and II. He pointed out that although the photographs contained in the Exhibits have been portrayed as the same, these are in reality different from one another and are scanned copies. The Defense counsel suggested that the photographs contained in Material Exhibit I depicts lots of people in the 3rd row, unlike Material Exhibit-II. The counsel then showed photographs to the Investigation Officer and suggested that Mr. Alim is not present in the photographs submitted as Prosecution evidence. They suggested that the photographs admitted into evidence are unclear and cannot be used in the identification process.
The Defense further suggested that the Investigation Officer did not interview any of the reporters or editors of the newspapers that have been submitted before the tribunal. The witness admitted that he did not question the reporters or editors. He also admitted that he did not follow the PRB (Police Regulation of Bengal) because it is not applicable to the investigation procedure under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973. The witness also acknowledged that he did not receive any international training on investigation. The Defense also suggested that the witness did not find any list of Razakars in Jaipurhat District.
The Defense then outlined inconsistencies between the statements of the witnesses made to the Investigation Officer and those made before the Tribunal. They noted that Prosecution witness 11, Dilip Kumar Chakraborty, did not allege that he saw Alim from a distance in his original statement to the Investigation Officer. Further, the counsel referred to the contradictions underlying statements of the other witnesses and also suggested that the Investigation Officer failed to record the statements of those he interviewed due to his own malicious intent. The Defense additionally alleged that the witness intentionally excluded any information that supports the Defense case. The witness denied these suggestions and stressed that he recorded the statements of 54 persons out of a total of 60 persons he questioned. He also denied that he failed to properly write down the statements recorded by him.
Finally, the Defense reiterated that no documentary evidence of the number of peace committee members in the area was ever collected and that the Investigation Officer did not interview key persons and freedom fighters in the area. The Defense then concluded by alleging that the Investiation Officer did properly investigate this case and failed to reach appropriate findings as a consequence.