17 November 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Mir Quasem Ali, Opening Statements Delayed; AKM Yusuf, PW-5, PW-6 and PW-7

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases: 

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Mir Quasem Ali
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. AKM Yusuf

Today was set for opening statements in the case against Mir Quasem Ali, but the Accused was not present in Court, becasue the Jail Authority had not received the order to produce him. Due to this procedural error, the Tribunal adjourned the case until 18 November 2013, thereby delaying the opening statements by one day.

ICT-2 then moved to the case against AKM Yusuf.  They completed recording the cross-examination of PW-5, and heard complete testimony from PW-6 and PW-7, including their cross-examinations.

PW-5 Cross-Examination

The defense resumed the cross-examination of PW-5 from 14 November 2013. The witness began by stating that he is the fourth of five brothers in is family and that all but one is still living.

The witness clarified before the Court that he is from Morolganj Union and not Boroikhali. He said that he does not remember the name of the Chairman of Boroikhali Union nor when the Rajakar camp of Boroikhali, mentioned in his testimony earlier, had been established.

Following these clarifications, the defense went on to assert that Yusuf took people for training and subsequently ordered his men to kill. In response, the witness stated he neither heard nor saw people being sent for training to Khulna. Additionally he asserted that he had not heard Yusuf give any such order, but that he had heard from others that Yusuf and Rajakars tortured and killed freedom fighters and pro-liberation forces. However, he acknowledged that he did not see such events firsthand.

The witness went on to say the camp where his brother was killed was one mile away from where he lived. His brother-in-law, Hamaj Uddin, who accompanied him to the camp, is no longer alive. He stated that he does not know if there was any battle between the freedom fighters and Rajakar forces at the camp on that day. Though the witness stated that he did not know precise time when he got back his brother’s dead body, he did not recognize any of the freedom fighters at the camp whom he knew before. According to the witness, the police did not arrive at the site. While his father was alive when this took place, he did not accompany him to the camp. Neither the witness nor any other family members filed any case or complaint regarding the death of his brother.

In response, the defense counsel challenged that witnesses’ account of the events, claiming that the witness had gone to the camp to collect his brother’s body or that he saw the accused, Yusuf, there. The defense also suggested that the brother of the witness did not die on 13 May 1971 but died in a different conflict that took place between Pakistani Army and the freedom fighters on 18 May 1971. The witness refuted these suggestions.

The defense then sought to establish a connection between the land and shop the witness owned to the current government. The defense first suggested that the present Government gave him land in Morolganj near Launch/Vessel terminal, a claim the witness strongly denied. Upon such response, the defense counsel asked the witness whether he has any asset in the said Launch Terminal. He then admitted that he has a shop there but clarified that the shop was allocated to him with the assistance of local people and freedom fighters. After establishing that the shop currently sits on government land, the defense suggested the shop had been given to the witness by the government as a consideration for giving false evidence against the accused, Yusuf, in this Tribunal. The witness vehemently denied the allegation.

During the war, the witness testified that he mostly stayed home in 1971. The defense counsel again suggested that the witness did not observe the incident of 17 May 1971. The witness replied that he heard the incident and later went to the site to see its aftermath. Despite knowing the risks, the witness stated curiosity brought him to visit the site.

According to the witness, the Pakistani army occasionally came to Morolganj and left after staying there in the camp for two to three days. The defense counsel once again suggested that the incident of 19 May did not take place and no one named Niranjan Das died there on that day. Again, the witness rejected the suggestion.

Regarding the incident of the killing of Dr. Abdul Majid on 26 July, 1971, the defense counsel questioned how the witness knew of it. He replied that he saw the dead body floating in the river. Finally, the defense counsel yet again asserted that his testimony was entirely false and fabricated, a claim the witness strongly denied.

PW-6 Examination-in-chief

The testimony of the witness relates to Charge-11.

The witness said that he is the son of Shahid (martyr) Joynal Fakir of Shonatola, Sharonkhola. After training as a freedom fighter in the Sundarban Forest, his father Joynal Fakir then patrolled Sundarbans area.

On 9 June 1971, between 2:30 pm to 3 pm, his father and few other freedom fighters came to Tafalbari Bazar (marketplace) to buy necessary commodities. They were intercepted there by a group of 30 to 35 members of Rajakars who surrounded them from all directions. Only a few of the freedom fighters managed to escape and survive. The witness said that his father was kicked to the ground and brutally beaten with rifles by the Rajakars. The witness, who was present at the time of the altercation, recognized some of the Rajakars members who were there. Amongst them were Rajakar Quader, Abdur Rouf, Yusuf Maolana. They took his father to the bank of the nearby river and shot him to death. His dead body was recovered from the river after three days.

The witness claimed he recognized the accused on the dock and committed himself to seek justice for the killing of his father.

PW-6 Cross-examination

His mother filed a case regarding his father’s killing in 1971. It was taken to the Khulna Judge Court, where Yusuf was one of the accused. In that case, all the accused were acquitted, including Yusuf. The witness then said that his mother came with him in the court today, but was not in the courtroom at the moment. She has not filed any other case, save the current one in this tribunal.

In response to questions by the defense counsel, the witness stated that he does not remember his date of birth or his marriage date. He also said that he has six children, but does not remember their birth dates. The defense counsel then asked the witness whether he knew the name of all the English months. The witness hesitantly replied that he did not. The defense counsel then asked whether the witness remembers the Bengali month in which his father had been killed. He replied that he could not but recalled it was on a Thursday.

The witness stated that he gave a statement to the IO once in Tafalbari Freedom Fighters’ Office and again in Sharankhola Police Station 20-25 days later.

Finally, the defense suggested that the witness was hiding his actual age and that he was younger than what he had stated. It was also suggested that the testimony of the witness is false and fabricated. The witness yet again denied the allegations.

PW-7 Testimony

The testimony of the witness relates to Charge-11.

The witness was tendered for cross-examination only. Her examination-in-chief was not conducted separately, as she adopted all the statements of PW-6.

To begin, the witness stated that she must have been about 24 years old in 1971. She told the court that she did not go to school and she does not know the alphabet. She recalled that she got married under-aged; when she was very young. She does not remember when she got married to her husband martyr Joynal Fakir, only that is was long before 1971. Furthermore, she testified that her son (PW-6) was 16 years old in 1971 and that her husband died in Bhadro month of the Bengali calendar on a Thursday

She confirmed that she filed a case in Khulna in which she was the only witness and recently filed the present case. She said that the Investigation Officer did not read to her what he recorded as her statement. At this point, the prosecution asked her to listen to the questions carefully before replying. The judges instructed the prosecution not to interrupt the witness.

The defense lawyer then displayed an affidavit and asked if the picture attached to it and the signature is that of the witness. The said affidavit was allegedly signed by her and denied filing any case against the accused. The prosecution counsels strongly opposed this action and the authenticity of the document. The witness also denied signing any such paper.

The court questioned the defense counsel as to the legality of such declaration and doubted the means in which it may have been obtained. Taking the matter and implications behind it very seriously, the honorable judges immediately passed an order asking Ms. Shamima Akhter and Mr. Sheikh Abdul Wadud, the lawyers in front of whom the said statement had been allegedly sworn, to appear before the tribunal on 4 December 2013. The tribunal observed that since the witness denied signing any such document, it is pertinent that the truth behind the mysterious document be found.

The cross-examination was then concluded.