16 September 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Abdul Alim, Defense Closing Arguments; Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, PW-24 Examination

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. Ashrafuzzaman Khan & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin

Defense counsel for the Accused, Mr. Abdul Alim, continued his closing submission before Triubal 2. The Court also recorded the cross examination of the Investigation Officer who gave testimony as PW-24 in the case against Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan.

Alim case: Defense closing submissions on points of law

Defense Counsel, Mr. Ahsanul Haque Hena, continued his legal submissions on behalf of his client, Abdul Alim. He began the session by focusing on general points about the political structure of the parties existing in 1971.  He argued that this historical information was pertinent to help the Court understand any ties the Accused had with these political parties.

No Nexus between Convention Muslim League and Peace Committee

Counsel began by addressing the Prosecution allegation that the accused had been a leading figure of the Convention Muslim League (CML), which later led to his engagement with Peace Committee. Counsel acknowledged that in 1971 there were three Muslim Leagues in the country: Council Muslim League, Kaiyum Muslim League, and Convention Muslim League. Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, a man who was very close to Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was the chief of Convention Muslim League (CML). Accordingly, he was strictly monitored by the government and was subjected to targeted attacks. According to Counsel, his convoy was once attacked by Pakistani forces, and his chauffer died in the attack. Defense Exhibit “Ja” further showed that Yahya Khan once confiscated the funds of this party by means of a Gazzette notification. Based on this, Defense counsel contended that, unlike other Muslim leagues, CML had a rough relationship with the Pakistani government. Counsel submitted that the party never even participated in the discussion forum in connection with the formation of the Peace Committee, and it was Loghi Chowdhury, not Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, who governed the Peace Committee in Chittagong. Accordingly, Counsel argued, CML had no nexus whatsoever with the formation and operation of Peace Committee, and Abdul Alim, then a leader of CML, had no connection whatsoever with the Peace Committee or the Rajakars.

Defense counsel called the Court’s attention to Prosecution documents exhibited as Material Exhibit VII (Shahriar Kabir, Ekatturer Ghatok o Dalal ra Ke Kothay), indicating that the fifteen member Peace Committee in Jaipurhat was formed under the leadership of a person named Abbas Ali, not Abdul Alim. The same had been corroborated by Material Exhibit I as well as the testimony of DW-1, Counsel stressed.

Undermining Witness Testimony Purporting to Implicate Alim as a Peace Committee Leader

Defense counsel addressed evidence from several witnesses whose testimony implicated the Accused in the Peace Committee. PW-1 revealed during cross-examination that he had not in fact seen what happened in Jaipurhat and Khetlal while he was in jail. PW-2 had claimed that the Peace Committee was formed by Alim, but Counsel argued that this witness’ credibility was undermined when it became apparent in the cross-examination that he had no idea of the technical details of Peace Committee. The testimony of PW-3 also lacked specificity, Counsel argued. Under cross-examination, PW-3 stated that he could not say how many members were there in the Central Peace Committee, nor who its chairman and secretary were. He also denied knowing anything about the formation of a special committee for the formation of Peace Committee in Mohokuma. PW-4 had stated that Late Abbas Alim Khan formed the Peace Committee in Jaipurhat, but Counsel pointed out that this contradicted another claim her made: that Alim was hiding himself in the neighboring Am-Doi Union.

Moreover, Counsel argued, PW-4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 all failed to bring any documentary evidence regarding the formation of Peace Committee in Jaipurhat. The testimony of PW-9 and PW-10 should be treated with caution, because it was based on hearsay, Counsel argued.  Both stated that they merely heard from “people” that it was Alim who for formed Peace Committee. Moreover, PW-10 stated in his cross-examination that he could not say how many Police Stations were there in Jaipurhat Mahokuma in 1971 because he was quite young at the time. Accordingly, Defense counsel questioned whether the Court could rely on any of the evidence from this witness. PW-11 failed to state the name of Peace Committee’s secretary while PW-2 and PW-7’s testimony about the time of formation of Jaipurhat Peace Committee contradicted testimony from PW-23 on the same topic. The last piece of testimonial evidence the Defense addressed in closing arguments was that of the Investigation Officer (IO) who had appeared in Court as PW-35. Counsel urged the Court to take note of the fact that the IO had never explicitly named Abdul Alim as chairman of Jaipurhat Peace Committee.  The IO had also conceded that he had failed to find any documents from Jaipurhat Police Station that tended to incriminate Alim.

Defense counsel Hena urged the Court to reject the submission of prosecutor Dr. Tureen Afroz, who had claimed in closing submissions that “Peace Committee” was a generic name, and thus there might have been more than one Peace Committee in Jaipurhat. Defense argued that the Prosecution had taken this unfounded stance only after they discovered that the evidence indicated Abbas Ali Khan, not the Accused Alim, was in fact the Chairman of the Jaipurhat Peace Committee. Defense Counsel denied that the Accused was affiliated with the Peace Committee in any way, but he also argued that, in any event, mere affiliation would not prove participation in the alleged crimes, because the Peace Committee was never proved to be an auxiliary force within the purview of Section 2(a) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973. Members of the Peace Committee neither carried weapons, nor were they paid by the government. It was at best a group of volunteers who were never under the control of the Pakistani armed forces for operational, administrative, strategic or other purposes.

Alim Had No Connection with Rajakar Forces

Contrary to Prosecution allegations, Defense maintained that Alim was never connected to the Rajakar forces, so references at trial to him as a Rajakar commander were misleading and false. Counsel pointed out that there were no documents produced by the Prosecution to support this claim.  In fact, Material Exhibit-9 shows that one Afzal Uddin Shikder was in fact the Rajakar Commander of Jaipurhat sub-division.

The final point addressed by Defense counsel today way to refute a Prosecution contention that one Pakistani Army officer named Major Afzal had been present in Jaipurhat at the material time in 1971. Counsel submitted that it was clear from the testimony of PW-22 that there had in fact been no Pakistan army officer by the name of Major Afzal posted in Jaipurhat.

Uddin and Khan: Cross-examination of PW-24

In the case against Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan, the Court heard cross-examination of PW-24, one of the investigation officers. Beginning with his professional background, the witness stated that he joined Police in the year 1988. He used to work in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) prior to joining the Investigation Agency of the Tribunal. He was then assigned with the investigation of allegations against Ashrafuzzaman Khan alias Nayeb Ali. Under questioning by Counsel for Ashrafuzzaman Khan, Mr. Shukur, the IO stated that he went to the village of the accused Ashrafuzzaman on 28 June 2012 in Gopalganj district of Moksedpur police station. He testified that he questioned Ms. Mahmuda Bebum, who is Ashraf’s cousin’s sister, as well as her husband Mr. Taiyab Ali Khan.

The officer testified that he took still photographs of Ashraf’s house as shown by the brother-in-law of the Accused Mr. Harun-ur-Rashid Molla. Defense questioned whether Mr. Molla gave a statement that went unrecorded because it was in favor of the Accused. The IO denied this allegation. Defense counsel went on to question the witness about a diary allegedly kept by Ashraf.  He focused on questions about where the diary had been found.  The IO testified that the diary was found at 350 East Nakhalpara, which was where Ashraf had lived in June 1971. The landlord’s son, Mr. Ali Sazzad, reportedly told the IO that the diary had been recovered from the room where Ashraf lived. The IO reported that he tried to find the original copy of the diary, but he could not find its whereabouts. He rejected the Defense suggestion that the diary did not in fact exist, and that Ashraf was not its owner.

The IO denied Defense suggestions that statements about Ashrafuzzaman in Material Exhibit VII Series were based on mere conjecture, rather than fact. However, he conceded that had not personally read Professor Anisuzzaman’s “Amar Ekattur” (My seventy one), Shamolima Nasreen Chowdhury’s “Ekattur er Shahid Doctpr Alim Chowdhury” (Martyr Doctor Alim Chowdhury of Seventy One) or Jahanara Imam’s “Ekattur er Din guli” (Days of Seventy One).

Counsel for Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Ms. Salma Hye Tuni, asked the witness several additional questions. She asked about when and where the IO questioned PW-1, Ms. Ratna. He replied that the questioning had been conducted on 30 October 2011, in the house of her aunt, Ms. Farida Begum, who also gave testimony as PW-16. The IO reported that he did not find any documentary evidence to show that she was involved in politics. He did not also find any of her fellow classmates. Counsel asked the IO whether he investigated the existence of army camp near the Dhaka University campus. He replied that he had not, because DU was not under the control of the Pakistani Army from 10 to 16 December 1971.