15 September 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Abdul Alim, Defense Closing Statement

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following case:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim

Defense counsels for the accused Mr. Abdul Alim started the Defense closing submission on behalf of the accused before Tribunal 2. Learned advocate for the defense Mr. Tajul Islam opened the Defense submission, followed by Mr. Ahsanul Haque Hena. The Defense submission is scheduled to continue for at least two more working days before the Prosecution gets a brief chance to reply on law points of the case.

Overview of Arguments

a)    Background of the accused Abdul Alim and his whereabouts in 1971.

b)   Defense arguments pertaining to the legal issues of double jeopardy, tri-partite agreement, political trial and selective prosecution

Defense Counsel Mr. Tajul Islam opened the closing submission of the defense in Alim’s case. At the onset of the submission, the counsel gave a detailed account of the Accused‘s educational and political background.

Background of the Accused

Counsel stated the Accused, Mr. Md. Abdul Alim, is the son of late Abdul wahed of Thana Road of Jaipurhat, and was born on 1 November 1930 in the village Pandua, under Hugli Police Station in West Bengal, India. He and his family migrated to the then East Pakistan between 1951 and 1952, and settled in Jaipurhat. After the completion of his Master of Arts degree, the accused achieved his LLB degree and joined legal practice. Defense counsel emphasized that Alim was a leader and a top tier lawyer of his time. He had been elected as the President of Jaipurhat Bar Association on two occassions and also practised in the Bogura Bar. Counsel argued that the accused served his people with honesty, and built Jaipurhat brick by brick while acting as the people’s elected representative. According to Counsel, the fact that the Acused won every election in which he competed, except one, illustrated what a compelling endorsement he received from the general public as an honest politician. He served the country before the liberation, as well as afterward, once East Pakistan became Bangladesh. He joined Muslim league in the year 1958.

Whereabouts of the accused in 1971

According to Defense counsel, Alim was practicing in Bogura in 1971 and went to Jaipurhat on 29 March. Prosecutors alleged at trial that freedom fighters attacked Alim’s house on 20 April 1971, that Alim managed to escape the attack, and that he went on to receive the Pakistan Army in Panchbibi. The Defense rejected this allegation, countering that Alim was in fact hiding himself in Aam-Doi Union from 20 April to 30 July of that year. Counsel argued that the Accused was first hiding in one Mofiz’s house and then went on to hide in Musa Maolana’s house, where his wife died.

Purposeful and selective prosecution and political trial

Defense counsel gave a brief account of Alim’s political position in the post-liberation period. He stated that the Accused was elected as Pourashova Chairman of Jaipurhat in 1974, during the lifetime of the Father of the Nation, Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Then President, Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had also selected him to be Director of the Jaipurhat Sugar Mill. Defense counsel urged the Court to consider that the supreme leader of Bengali nation would not have entrusted the Accused with this responsibility if he believed Alim to be a war criminal from 1971. Moreover, Counsel argued, the people of Jaipurhat would not have elected him Pouroshova Chairman within two years of liberation, if he were a war criminal. Counsel argued that the allegations of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity being brought against the Accused are nothing more than a political trial staged by the government.

Double jeopardy

Defense counsel conceded that two cases had been filed against the accused in 1972 under the Collaborators’ Order, based on his political involvement with the Convention Muslim League. In one of these two cases, a final report (finding no truthfulness or evidence of preliminary allegations) was submitted by the investigation agencies.  The other case was subsequently withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.

Counsel argued that trying the Accused now before the ICT, based on the same set of facts or allegations, was tantamount to double jeopardy.

The Bench intervened to state that they had already reached a decision on the legal issues of whether the ongoing trials are political or purposeful and whether these proceding amount to double jeopardy.  Defense counsel acknowledged the prior decision, but urged the Court to reconsider.  He submitted that the Tribunal is not bound by its own previous judgment, and can consider it per incurium, given the fact that the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division had not yet given a binding ratio decidendi.

The Court warned Counsel not to repeat legal submissions already made previously on which the Tribunal had already given its findings, so Defense counsel wrapped up his submissions, adopting all previous arguments submitted by senior defense counsel Mr. Abdur Razzak and other defense counsels in other cases. Mr. Tajul Islam asked the Tribunal to re-consider these arguments while deciding the outcome of the instant case.

Mr. Ahsanul Haque Hena rose to make submissions after Mr. Islam. He argued that the case against the Accused is based on “nothing,” questioned why, if the tribunal was a legitimate legal institution, the Court had only just been convemned by ruling Awami League leaders in 2010, and submitted that the rules governing the Tribunal are defective. The Court intervened to take issue with what they perceived to be Counsel’s attack on the wisdom of the judges who promulgated the governing rules of procedure.  Counsel denied that he was attacking the judges, but maintained that the system of rules was in fact flawed.

The defense summing up is scheduled to continue on September 16, 2013.