Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin
Today in the Alim case Tribunal 2 recorded the testimony of Defense witness 1. Defense counsel Ahsanul Haque Hena conducted the examination-in-chief in the morning session while Prosecutor Rana Das Gupta conducted cross-examination of the defense witness during the second half of the day.
Additionally, the Tribunal recorded the testimony of Prosecution witness 18 in the case against Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, both of whom are being tried in absentia. Both the examination-in-chief and cross-examination were completed. The testimony of Prosecution witness 18 supports Charge 6, regarding the abduction and murder of Dr Abul Khayer and other intellectuals.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
Defense Witness 1
Mr. Mamanur Rashid Chowdhury testified as the first Defense witness in the Alim trial. The witness stated that he is the son of late Mohsin Ali Chowdhury and is a resident of Shantinagar area in Jaipurhat. He was 13 years old during in 1971 and was a student of Class-6 in Kaishabari High School in Jaipurhat. He lived with his parents in CO Colony at that time.
The witness recounted his memories of the war period. He said that he remembered not being allowed out of his house at the end of April 1971 because the Pakistani Army had entered the Jaipurhat area. One day he overheard some elderly people conversing in front of his house. They said that the Pakistani Army had taken control of the local Police Station and killed Hares Molla, who is the father of the present Union Mayor of Jaipurhat. They said that the father of Abbas Ali Mondol had been killed as well.
The witness testified that someone named Hafiz Bihari lived adjacent to the CO Colony. One day the witness saw that many people were gathering in front of his house. Becoming curious, the witness asked his father about what happening there. His father told him that it was the office of Peace Committee Chairman Abbas Ali Khan.
Mamanur Rashid Chowdhury then discussed Shaon Lal Bajla’s family. It is alleged that Bajla’s ‘godighar’ (sitting room) was used by the Accused as the Peace Committee’s office after Bajla’s family was forced to leave. The witness said that Shaon Lal Bajla came from an elite family and was well-connected to prominent people of the time. The Bajla family was well positioned in Chittagong. Accordingly, the witness stressed that the army never harmed the Bajla family because of their connections, even though other Hindu families were compelled to leave their houses. The witness stated that he learned this from his father. His father also told him that the local army camp in the vicinity was Kutibari Army Camp and that the Chairman of the Peace Committee was Abbas Ali Khan. He also learned from his father that Abbas Ali Khan was able to facilitate the release of detained Bangalis from the custody of the Pakistani Army.
The Prosecution conducted its cross-examination first by asking about the witness’ background. The witness stated that his home village is Bakila in Am-Doi Union of Jaipurhat. He clarified that his father had four wives, but when pressed by the Prosecution said that he actually had six wifes. Rashid Chowdhury said that he is one of six brothers, but that three of his brothers are deceased. He said that Mahbub Alam Prokash Bablu is his brother and the local Chairman Nurul Islamm Chowdhury is his step-brother.
The witness said that Bakila village is 12 Kilometers away from CO Colony, but clarified that they resided in the CO Colony as opposed to commuting from Bakila village. The Prosecution asked whether the witness could show rent receipts for the house in CO Colony. The witness objected saying such receipts are unnecessary because his family owns the house in CO Colony. The prosecution then asked if the witness show any documentary evidence confirming ownership of the house. The witness became agitated and offended, saying he did not bring land documents regarding the CO Colony house because he never contemplated that the same would be required or relevant. He then very forcefully denied the Prosecution’s suggestion that the witness does not own the house and did not live there during 1971 war period.
The Prosecution alleged that Hafiz Bihari’s house was called “Chamra’r Gudam” (leather wearhouse). The Defense witness said that it is true that the area was known as “Chamra’r Gudam” and said that it is still known by that name even today. He testified that he never tried to find out where Abbas Ali Khan resided because he was not interested in being involved in politics.
Finally, the Prosecution suggested that it was Alim who was the Peace Committee Chairman and had forced Shaon Lal Bajla to flee to India. The witness denied this and said that he never heard of any one called Alim. At this point, the judges enquired as to whether the witness still doesn’t know Alim even at this stage. The witness clarified that he never heard of Alim in 1971 and only learned of him after Alim became a Minister of Ziaur Rahman’s cabinet.
The prosecution concluded the cross-examination by suggesting that the witness is the Secretary of Jaipurhat Ward No. 4 of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and is therefore concealing the truth to save the accused Alim. The witness strongly denied the suggestion and stressed that he is not affiliated with any political party. The Prosecution then concluded its cross-examination.
At one point during the testimony the Tribunal stopped recording the testimony of Defense 1 due to confusion as to whether the name of the witness had been included in the list of defense witness submitted before the tribunal earlier. The Prosecution objected to his testimony, saying that they could not find the name of this witness in the long list of Defense witnesses. After the Defense pointed out to the tribunal that his name appeared as number 2805 of the potential witness list the Tribunal resumed recording his testimony.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Khan & Mueen Uddin
Prosecution Witness 18
Mr. Rashedul Islam, son of victim Dr. Abul Khayer, testified in support of Charge 6. Charge 6 alleges that the Defendants led a group of armed Al-Badr men in abducting Professor Gias Uddin Ahemed, Professor dr. Serajul Haque Khan, Dr. Md. Mortuja, Dr. Abul Khayer, Dr. Foyzul Mohiuddin, Professor Rashidul Hassan, Professor Anwar Pasha, and Professor Dr. Santosh Bhattacharrjee from their residences on Dhaka University campus. These victims are among the targets of the ‘intellectual killings’ that occurred just before the surrender of the Pakistani Army. The Defendants are charged with abduction as a crime against humanity, or in the alternative, with extermination as a crime against humanity, or in the alternative murder as a crime against humanity. Both modes of joint criminal enterprise and superior command responsibility are alleged as modes of liability.
The witness stated that he currently resides in Dhanmondi. He was 5 years old in 1971 and resided at the Fuller Road residence in Dhaka University area. His father Dr Abul Khayer was an Assistant Professor of History at the Dhaka University (DU).
The witness described the abduction of his father. He stated that on 14th December 1971 at around 9 am. He had a shawl with him at the time. As soon as he exited the gate, 4 or 5 unknown men approached him and asked his name. Upon confirming his identity, they blindfolded him with the shawl and took him away in a mud-smeared car. The witness saw this from the balcony where he was playing and ran to his mother to inform her. Hearing his story his mother rushed outside and asked the men to release her husband. The perpetrators pointed guns at her and advised her not to follow them.
Later, the witness’ cousin Dr Fazlul Rashid and uncle Mr Iqbal Haider Chowdhury looked for the dead body of Dr Abul Khayer in various places but did not find him. The witness said he learned these details later from his mother. The witness stated that on 4January 1972, the alleged driver (Mafiz) of the muddy mini-bus visited and admitted that they had used the bus to abduct intellectuals. Mafiz informed the witness’ family that the the bodies of the murdered intellectuals were buried in Mirpur. The witness said his father’s dead body was finally found and was taken to the morgue of Dhaka Medical College (DMC). The witness said that he heard from his mother that the niece of Professor Giasuddin, Ratna, had told her that Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Azharuzzaman Khan were behind the entire operation.
During the witness’ testimony he stated that the person that he had heard was responsible for his father’s abduction was named “Azharuddin” and “Azharuzzaman.” The Prosecution repeatedly corrected the witness, by interjecting “Ashrafuzzaman” when the witness said the wrong name. Although the state appointed defense counsel for the two accused did not object to this/interference by the Prosecution, , the judges of their on volition asked Prosecutor Saidur not to interrupt the flow of the witness by interfering and correcting him.
The witness further concluded his testimony by stating that his father’s name appeared in the list of “Jollad er diary” (The Executor’s Diary) published in the newspaper after Bangladesh’s victory. He said that the names of the Accused were published in newspapers as well. The witness finally stated that his mother is now 74 years old and is therefore unable to come before the tribunal.
State appointed defense counsel for Ashrafuzzaman Mr Shukur asked the witness about his date of birth. He replied that it was 12 June 1966. The witness said that his younger sister and mother were present in the house with him at the time of his father’s abduction, and that his elder brothers were playing upstairs on the third floor. The witness also said that they resided in the ground floor of their building.
The witness became disconcerted when the Defense counsel asked him how he was able to read the names of the Accused in newspapers published in December of 1971 and January 1972, biven he was only four and half years old at the time. One of the judges however clarified the matter by saying that the witness may have read old newspapers from the relevant time at a later date after he grew up.
State appointed defense counsel for Mueen Uddin, Ms Tuny, asked for details about the residence of the witness. The witness stated that their house was four-storied and had double units on every floor. Dr Abdul Hye resided in the flat next to theirs.
The Defense then suggested that the witness was involved in student-politics and is giving false testimony. She suggested that driver Mafiz surrendered on 18th December 1971 and was subsequently prosecuted under the Collaborator’s Order of 1972. Therefore he (Mafiz) could not have come to the witness’ house or informed them of the whereabouts about Dr Abul Khayer’s body. Defense counsel Tuny further suggested that the mother of the witness never met Ms Masuda Babu Ratna in the hospital. Finally, the cross-examination was concluded with the Defense’s suggestion that Dr Abul Khayer was a victim of pro-Pakistan teachers at Dhaka University who were his fellow colleagues and handed him over to the custody of Pakistani Army who ultimately killed him. The witness admitted that his father was once taken into custody by Pakistani Army in May, 1971 but said that he was soon released.