18 November 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Mir Quasem Ali, Defense Motions and Opening Statements again delayed; AKM Yusuf, PW-8

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

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

ICT-2 heard two separate Defense applications today, filed on behalf of accused Mir Quasem Ali. One sought disclosure of Prosecution documents, and the second sought disclosure of further details about Prosecution witnesses. The Tribunal granted the former but not the latter. The Prosecution then sought adjournment of the case until 10 December.  The Court directed the Prosecution to provide the Defense copies of all the documents pertinent to their motion on or before 25 November 2013.

In the case against AKM Yusuf, the Tribunal recorded the examination-in-chief of PW-8, and the Defense began cross-examination before retiring for the day. The testimony of PW-8 supports Charges 10, 11, and 13 faced by the Accused.

Senior defense counsel Mr. Abdur Razzak moved for the disclosure of prosecution documents, submitting that the defense was not served a copy of the documentary evidences submitted by the prosecution before the Tribunal. The counsel argued that the defense is entitled to receive each and every document the prosecution intends to rely on, including books. Mr. Razzak stated that the trial process cannot commence until the requirement of such disclosure and service is satisfied. The prosecution rebutted that many of the books have already been provided to the defense counsels in relation to other cases. Mr. Razzak argued that unless the defense is served with all prosecution documents, it would result to prejudice to the accused and hinder the ability of the defense to effective cross-examine the prosecution witness. He further complained that this application had been submitted on 27 October 2013, but has not received any response. He thus strongly submitted that the documents be provided to the defense and the case be adjourned for some time, giving the defense reasonable time to evaluate the documents.

The prosecution conceded that the defense is entitled to receive a copy of all the prosecution documents. However, the prosecution claimed that the defense counsels already have most of the books the prosecution is relying upon, as they had been served the same in respect of other cases. Nonetheless, the prosecution stated that they will provide the defense with any documents at its earliest opportunity but hoped this will not delay the commencement of the trial process.

The Tribunal opined that it is pertinent in the interest of justice that counsels of the defendant are served a copy of all documents, which the prosecution may intend to rely on. Accordingly, the Tribunal ordered the prosecutors to submit a defense copy of all the prosecution documents on or before 25 November 2013.

Defense Application for details about Prosecution Witnesses:

The defense further submitted that the defense should be provided pertinent details of the prosecution witnesses. Mr. Razzak submitted that having prior information about the background of the witnesses would enable them to validate and appraise the witnesses and the potential contents of their testimony, necessary for the effective cross-examination of witness.

The Prosecution strongly objected, stating that the safety and security of the prosecution witnesses is already at severe stake and disclosing their details in advance would only gravely endanger them.

The Tribunal rejected motion, noting previous instances in which witnesses have been threatened or even attacked. The Court noted that the prosecution has been providing names of the witnesses to the defense prior to testimony and the same procedure will continue to be practiced.

Prosecution Opening Statements:

The prosecution opened with a preliminary background of the accused. He went on to recount a brief historical background of Bangladesh’s war of liberation and the horrendous atrocities committed during that period, including the killing of intellectuals. However, the Honorable Tribunal asked the Prosecutor not to repeat such historical facts and common knowledge, reiterating that it has already given its findings in all its previous judgments. Moreover, the tribunal also stated that the accused has not been charged with the killing of intellectuals, but for incidents in Chittagong. Hence the prosecutor was asked not to repeat events that are unrelated to the accused.

The accused, Mir Quasem, is faced with 14 charges, including two incidents of murder as Crimes against Humanity, as well as abduction, confinement, and miscellaneous other offenses.

The Tribunal then fixed 10 December 2013 as the next date for recording the testimony of the witnesses, affording time for the prosecution to provide documents to the defense and the defense to adequately prepare.

PW-8 Testimony:

The witness is the son of Late Moulubi Abdul Gani Khan of Rayenda Bazar of Sharonkhola, Bagherhat. He stated that he is now 60 years old and was a candidate of Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination in 1971. However, the clarified that the exam did not take place in 1971 and was later held in 1972.

The witness stated that the Chatra Shongram Parishad (a students’ union for protest and movement ) was formed under his leadership after the historic speech of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The witness recalled that on Sunday, 25 April 1971, around 2:30pm, he was on the school premises. He saw at two launch/engine vessel and one steel-body gunship enter from the Bolesshor River to the Rayeda canal. He then saw the accused, Yusuf, go down to the terminal accompanied by 20 to 25 people. Some of them entered the school, while others went to the bazaar (marketplace.) There, they gathered two to three hundred people. The accused Yusuf and others gave speeches to the people gathered there and distributed Identification Cards amongst people between 16 to 60 years of age. They were told that if someone does not have this ID card with them, they will be dead. He also said in his speech that it is not a sin to kill people belonging to Hindu religion. According to the Witness, Yusuf then formed various branches of Peace Committee.

The witness then said that on 19 April 1971, Yusuf went to a meeting in Rampal around 2 pm. After the meeting, he looted and burned six houses in that area.

The witness then told the tribunal that on 22 April 1971, around 10 am, Yusuf went to Kachua Police Station to carry out similar meeting. Thereafter, he attacked ten to eleven villages. He looted and burned three to four hundred houses.

The witness went on to identify Yusuf as the Chairman of Peace Committee of broader Khulna District and that he organized about 96 members of Muslim League and Jamaat supports to train them up in training camps by the Pakistani Army. Yusuf established Rajakar forces on 5 May 1971, and gave them uniforms and arms. Subsequently, they committed rape, arson, looting, and more.

The witness said that he then went to the Sundarban Forest to get ready for war. He was with Asmat Ali, Ismail, Hanif Molla, Hemayet Uddin Badsha , Abdur Rouf and other freedom fighters. They took positions in various places on 6 June 1971. On 7 June, around 3 am, Yusuf came to Sharonkhola with 15 to 20 men and then attacked the witness. The battle lasted about two hours, after which the witness’ became scattered. One of them, Captain Anwar went on to hide in toilet. However, the Rajakars searched every house in the vicinity and found Captain Anwar Hossain, Ismail Hossain and Asmat Ali. Theses detainees were then tortured and killed in front of the school, where their dead bodies were buried. Then witness then said that he heard later on that the Rajakars had also looted the house of Asmat Ali.

Two days later, on 9 June 1971, the witness had gone to Tafalbari Bazar (marketplace). Thirty to forty men suddenly surrounded the marketplace. Ten to fifteen of them searched the houses in the locality and caught Joynal Fakir and Basarat. Basarat used to collect and leak important information to them. However, they were both severely tortured. The witness said that he heard Yusuf kicked and participated in the torture. After they were tortured, they were killed and thrown in the river.

On 29 July 1971, one spy named Abdus Salam was caught. He worked for the freedom fighters to collect information while pretending to be a Rajakar. He tried to escape by diving it the river but was killed. The witness heard of the incident from Salam’s brother.

The witness finally concluded that it was Yusuf who had formed and named the force called Rajakar. Ninety-three people in his village, along with around one hundred thousand in total had been killed from the greater Khulna area during the war of liberation in 1971.

The defense started cross-examination and asked few questions to the accused before the tribunal adjourned for the day. In response to the question of defense counsel, the witness stated he was a group commander of twenty to twenty five freedom fighters in 1971. The defense then asked whether the witness knew who the Amir (head/chief) of Jamaat-E-Islam was at that time. He replied that it was AKM Yusuf, the accused, who was the Amir (head/chief) of Jamaat.