12 September 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Hearing of Application and Examination of PW-23

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following case:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin

 Tribunal 2 heard an application under section 19(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 in the case against Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin. The Prosecution sought to exclude certain previously made statements from witnesses who had been unable to come to the tribunal to testify. These included, for example, the testimony of Nusrat Rabbee, who had left for the US, and Syed Mortuza. The Tribunal granted the application in part, on the grounds that accepting statements from witnesses who are alive but unable to come before the Tribunal for cross-examination would be prejudicial to the accused. The Tribunal concluded that such statements would be admissible only from those who subsequently had died. The Court held that the incomplete testimony of Ms. Nusrat Rabbee would be considered as evidence only insofar as it had been recorded during courtroom examination. After disposing of this application, the court recorded the testimony of PW-23 in the same case. Both the examination-in-chief and cross-examination were completed in one day. The testimony of PW-23 supports the allegations in Charge 4 against the two accused, pertaining to the abduction and killing of martyred journalist Nizam Uddin Ahmed. Examination-in-chief The witness stated that he was four years old during the War of Independence in 1971. He said that his father Nizam Uddin Ahmed used to dream about a free Bangladesh and believed in Bangalee nationalism. He was the news correspondent of BBC Bangladesh and used to fearlessly portray the atrocities of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan. As a result of this, the witness testified, his father had been targeted by the Al-Badr and Pakistan Army. The witness’ family all live together at that time, including his father, mother, maternal grandparents and aunts. On 12 December 1971 at around 1 or 2pm, someone knocked on their door while the family was eating. Upon opening the door, two armed persons entered the house and asked who Nizam Uddin was. Thinking about the safety of his family members, the witness’ father identified himself as Nizam Uddin. The intruders asked him to show his ID card to confirm his identity. Upon confirmation, they took him away. The witness said that his mother was about to follow them but she was asked not to by the armed men. Prior to being abducted, his father had come to know that Seraj Uddin Hossain, Syed Nazmul Huqm ANM Golam Mostafa and other intellectuals had been abducted by Al-Badr men. The witness later heard from his neighbors that his father had been taken away in a white mud smeared car with his hands tied and his eyes covered. He also testified that he later came to know that there had been others in the car too, and he subsequently read in newspapers that Mueen and Ashraf were responsible for the abduction and killing of the intellectuals. Cross-examination Counsel for Ashrafuzzaman Khan, Mr. Shukur, examined the witness about a number of highly specific personal biographic details.  Hasked the witness his date of birth. The witness replied that it was August 1, 1968. The witness testified that he finished his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examinations in the year 1983. He also stated that the house they lived during the 1971 war was a rented property and a single story building. They had Qazi Bablu and Motaleb contractor as their neighbors. His elder sister Samana Nizam Silvi, who is 5 years older also lived with them back them. The witness denied the suggestion put forward to him by Ashrafuzzaman’s counsel that it is not true that Ashrafuzzaman was involved in the killing of his father and that it was Pakistani Army rather than Al-Badr men who killed him and the other intellectuals. Counsel for Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Ms. Salma Hye Tuni, followed up with further questions. She asked about the whereabouts of the witness’s uncles and aunties who lived with them during the 1971 war. The witness replied that his aunt lives in the U.S. while his uncle died in 2002. Defense counsel suggested that Nizam Uddin Ahmed had been paid by the Pakistan Government since he was the Chairman of Pakistan Press International (PPI). She then inquired about how the witness came to know about the involvement of Mueen and Ashraf from newspapers. Counsel highlighted the fact that the witness, who was only four years old in 1971, only came to read the newspapers years later. The witness explained that he didn’t see the newspapers until he was a university student, when he came to collect them from various sources including the War Museum. The Defense concluded by generally challenging the witness’ reliability, suggesting that he had been giving inaccurate testimony, based on hearsay and conjecture. Counsel suggested that, in fact, members of the Pakistani Army were the ones responsible for the killing of Bangladeshi intellectuals at the eve of independence.