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Weekly Digest: Issue 3 – February 3-7 2013

This week was dominated by the second Judgment of the ICT, issued by Tribunal 2 in the case of Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Qader Molla. The Judgment was issued on February 5th. The Accused was found guilty of 5 of 6 charges, all counts of crimes against humanity. Closing arguments in the case were completed on January 17, 2012. The Judgment was issued less than three weeks after the close of the case. Qader Molla was sentenced to life imprisonment. This report contains detailed analysis of the verdict and the factual and legal conclusions contained within it.

Tribunal 1 heard matters in the Gholam Azam, Nizami, and Chowdhury cases as well as a request from The Economist for additional time to respond to contempt proceedings related to its publication of the alleged Skype and email conversations between the former Chairman and expatriate Bangladeshi lawyer, Ahmed Ziauddin. In addition to issuing the Qader Molla Judgment, Tribunal 2 also dealt with ongoing contempt proceedings against Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and BNP leader MK Anwar, and issued an Order to Jamaat to explain comments made by its Central Executive member and Assistant Secretary General of Dhaka or face contempt.

Read the full weekly report here: Weekly Digest, Issue 3 – Feb 3-7

3 Feb 2013: ICT-1 Daily Summary – Contempt Proceedings, Witness Testimony in Gholam Azam and Nizami

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Contempt Proceedings Against the Economist
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs Ghulam Azam – Defense witness 1 testimony (Accused not Present)
  3. Chief Prosecutor vs Motiur Rahman Nizami – Prosecution witness 2 (Accused Present)

On February 3, 2013 Mustafizur Rahman requested 4 weeks of adjournment on behalf of the Economist to reply to the 6 December 2012 Tribunal order in which the former Chairman of ICT-1 issued an order to show cause for contempt in relation to their reporting of alleged Skype and email conversations between the Chairman and foreign legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin. The Tribunal granted Mr. Rahman and the Economist a month and fixed the next date for hearing as 3 March 2013.

Chief Prosecutor vs. Gholam Azam
On February 3, 2013 Defense witness 1, Abdullahil Amaan Azmi, a former Army personnel and the son of accused Gholam Azam provided testimony. He introduced several documents as exhibits. He exhibited photocopies of reports published in the Don newspaper dated from February 12 to October 28, 1971 and photocopies of reports published in the Pakistan Observer dated from April 1 to July 29, 1971.

While Defense was exhibiting the newspapers Prosecution raised an objection regarding the context of the newspaper reports. The Tribunal however declined to consider the objection. The Prosecution then stated that they would file an application regarding their objection. The Defense witness then exhibited photocopies of two photos against the objection of the Prosecution. He also exhibited photocopies of Bangladesher Sadhinota Juddho Dolilpotro (published in June 1984 vol-10); Bangladesh Document 1971 (Part-3); Shanti Committee 1971 (Published in February 2012) a book written by Muntasir Mamun; and Judhoporad, Gonohottha and Bicharer Oneshon (published in May 2001) a book written by Dr M A Hasan. The Defense witness also exhibited a Office Memo No. 164(10)/con Dated May 25, 1971, regarding the appointment of the Razzakars. The Defense witness also exhibited a video clipping of a talk show ‘Shoja Kotha’ aired by Desh TV on May 14, 2012 and a video clipping of a program ‘Ronogoner Dinguli’ aired by BTV on April 20, 2012.

Abdullahil Amaan Azmi testified that the Language Movement started after 1947 and that between 1948 and 1954 Gholam Azam went to prison three times for his leadership in Language Movement. Azmi alleged that by eliminating Gholam Azam’s contribution from the history of Language Movement, the history of language Movement has been distorted. He further alleged that in a similar way over the last 41 years the history of Independence has been distorted and the involvement of Gholam Azam with the Liberation War has been repainted in a negative manner.

Azmi stated that in 1971 Gholam Azam was one of 130 members of the Peace Committee. But Azmi asserted that Gholam Azam was not of official status within the Peace Committee. He alleged that in the last 41 years no action has been brought against any of the official members of Peace Committee including the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Joint Secretary, but nonetheless proceedings have been brought against the unofficial members of the Peace Committee for committing the alleged crimes. He claimed that the prosecution against Gholam Azam was brought only for political reasons and was designed to undermine him.

Thereafter, Prosecutor Haider Ali started to cross-examine Azmi. During the cross-examination he admitted that Moin E U Ahmed was the only Four Star General and that General Mostafizur Rahman was a honorary Four Star General.

The Tribunal then adjourned the case until Monday February 4, 2013

 Chief Prosecutor vs Motiur Rahman Nizami
In the Nizami case the Defense conducted cross-examination of prosecution witness 2, Zohiruddin Jalal alias Bishu Jalal, a former Freedom Fighter. During the cross-examination Zohiruddin Jalal admitted that it is possible to become a member of Muktijudha Songshod (an organization of freedom fighters) at any time. He admitted that he became the member of Muktijudha Songshod in 2005 and he could not remember his membership no. He stated said that former President Ershad first published a list of freedom fighters and then from 1991 to 1996 a voter list of freedom fighter was published. A freedom fighter’s list was also published by the Awami League. Jalal admitted that his name was not on the list of freedom fighters. He said that he applied to include his name in the voter list of Muktijudha Songsod as a member of Central Command Council in 1992. He said that he was the 35th member of Muktijudha Songsod. He admitted that those who are not a member of Muktijudha Songsod do not have a right to include their name in the voter list of Muktijudha Songsod.

Jalal said that he took admission in Westend School in 1970 in the 8th class. He could not continue his education into the 9th class in 1971 due to the Liberation War. He said that he passed SSC with second class in 1972 as a private student of Saleha School. He admitted that he could not remember the name of the subjects he took in SSC examinations. After that he took admission in Jogonnath College.

Jalal stated that during the Liberation War he used to read the Daily Purbo Desh but did not like to read the Shongram. He said that on August 29, 1971 he heard from someone that a report was published in Songram stating that some miscreants (Shongram used to describe freedom fighters as miscreants) were captured with arms and hearing this news he went to the Police Station with his uncle Bahauddin. He admitted that he saw 20 to 25 people there. He admitted that while testifying in Tribunal-2 he mistakenly said that he saw Rumi, Boudi, Jweal, Azhar, Chullu vai, Altaf Mahbub there (in the police station) due to the time gap of 41 years. He admitted that his first interview regarding Liberation War was published in the magazine of Westend School in 1972 or 1973. He admitted that his interviews were published in different newspapers including the Daily Prothom Alo and the Daily Jonokhontho, however, as far his knowledge none of his interviews were not published in Ittefaq, Azad or Purbo Desh. He said that he did not know whether his interview was published in any books or not. He said that he has given interviews to the Investigation Officer Razzak on two occasions. He stated that the commander of Bisshu Bahini was Shojib and he (Jalal) was given the title of Bisshu from Major Khaled Mosharrof, Commander of sector-2. He admitted that Razzakar of the Romna Police Station area was Gurha and that there was no Peace Committee in Savar.

16 Jan 2013: ICT 1 Daily Summary – Sayedee and Golam Azam

NOTE TO THE READER: Today opposition parties called a hartal (strike) for half the day. AIJI’s researcher was unable to attend the proceedings because of the strike. (transport to and from court becomes quite dangerous during such strikes) These notes regarding the proceedings for today were compiled through other persons present at the tribunal including the Defense team and journalist coverage. The prosecution team was also asked to verify their accuracy but did not respond before publication The WCSC has done its best to insure the neutrality of the notes from today but cannot guarantee their accuracy. Please bring any discrepancies to our attention.

The Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Delwar Hossain Sayedee – Prosecution Closing Arguments
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. Sayedee, Golam Azam, and Nizami – Hearing of Application for Review of Order Denying Retrial

Due to the half day hartal a junior member for the Defense requested adjournment until 2pm. The Tribunal granted his request and convened for the afternoon session.

Chief Prosecutor vs. Sayedee, Golam Azam, and Nizami
Yesterday, January 15, 2013 the hearing of the Review application began in the cases of Sayedee, Golam Azam and Nizami. Defense counsel Abdur Razzaq completed his arguments on behalf of the Accused.

Today Haider Ali gave a reply on behalf of the prosecution. He raised an objection regarding the Defense referring to the Order rejecting the retrial application as a ‘impugned order’ in their petition. He submitted that the Defense’s challenge of the usage of  the term ‘alleged’ in reference to the skype conversations between the former chairman and Ziauddin was also objectionable. He submitted that as the Defense introduced the skype and e-mail communications, the burden was on them to prove their contents. He argued that the existence of the conversations is established but not their content. Continue reading

14 Jan 2013: ICT 1 Daily Summary – Sayedee, Chowdhury, Gholam Azam

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs Delwar Hossain Sayedee: Response to Yesterday’s Applications (Accused Present in Court)
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs Salauddin Quader Chowdhury: Contempt Proceedings against Defense Counsel, Hearing of Application for Removal of Prosecutor (Accused Present in Court)
  3. Chief Prosecutor vs Golam Azam: Defence Case-in-Chief  (Accused Not Present)

In the Sayedee case the Tribunal rejected the six applications filed by the Defense yesterday, January 13. The Tribunal stated that it had already given orders pertaining to the issues raised and that it would be redundant to deal with them again.

In the Chowdhury case, the court issued an order to show cause for contempt against Defense counsel Fakhrul Islam. The Tribunal also rejected an application from Defense counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena requesting the adjournment of the tribunal until the contempt proceedings against foreign lawyer Dr. Ziauddin (implicated in the Skype controversy) had been disposed of.

The Tribunal heard joint arguments from the defense for Chowdhury and Golam Azam in favor of their application to remove lead Prosecutor Zead al-Malum.

The Tribunal then heard arguments from the Golam Azam Defense team in favor of their application to allow the skype conversations and emails between the former Chairman Nizamul Hoque and foreign lawyer Dr. Ahmed Ziauddin to be exhibited before the court.

for more detail, continue reading Continue reading

3 Jan 2013: Kamaruzzaman Retrial Application Hearing

Chief of Prosecution vs. Kamaruzzaman
Tribunal 2 heard the Defense’s application to recall the order taking cognizance of the charges against Kamaruzzaman and to order a full and complete retrial by a new and reformed bench. The Defense’s arguments focused on the following issues:

  • Issue of bias, breach of natural justice, and the necessity of retrial following the Skype controversy.
  • Public opinion and perception of judicial fairness, independence and neutrality of ICT-2 is an essential aspect of fair trial.
  • Doctrine of procedural bias and its relevance to the instant case.
  • Admissibility of evidence obtained through impropriety or illegality.
  • Contempt proceedings issued against Dr. Ziauddin for attempting to obstruct the independent proceedings of the Court.

Key Arguments of the Defense

Perceived Bias Jeopardizes Fair Trial
The Defense asserted that the present bench of Tribunal 2, with the presence of Judge Shahinul Islam, should not try the instant case and there should be a complete retrial based on the perception that he may have been influenced while working in close proximity with the former chairman of ICT-1 Mr Justice Mohammad Nizamul Haque, who resigned following the Skype controversy. The Defense did not allege that actual bias was present, but focused on the importance of perceived neutrality and independence on the part of the judiciary in order to insure fair trial. The Defense stated that even if the record of the Skype conversations was illegally obtained or the contents are untrue (though they noted there has been no such allegation), the public confidence on all associated with the instant benches of ICT has been adversely affected, requiring a retrial to uphold the legitimacy of the entire trial. They cited the judicial maxim “justice need not only be done but be seen to be done”. In the event that the judiciary or a particular trial is perceived to involve bias or breach of natural justice, The Defense argued there should be rearrangement in the Bench. The Defense drew an analogy to the case Re Pinochet (1999) HL, involving the trial of Senator Pinochet who was the head of State of Chile from 1973 until 1990 for various crimes against humanity. In this case, the House of Lords unanimously opined that there was a real danger or reasonable apprehension or suspicion that the  presence of Lord Hoffmann sitting in judgment could give rise to the appearance of bias because his wife worked for Amnesty International and he served as a Chairman for the organization and the organization had intervened and effectively become a party to the litigation. Counsel for Senator Pinochet submitted that such links gave rise to a reasonable apprehension or suspicion on the part of a fair minded and informed member of the public that Lord Hoffmann might have been biased. Giving importance to the possibility of such perception, their Lordships held that it was appropriate to direct a re-hearing of the appeal before an entirely different committee that shall neither include Lord Hoffmann nor the others who had already expressed their conclusion of the points at issue.

Reply by the Prosecution
The prosecution argues that the Skype conversations are material obtained through hacking, which in itself is a crime, and therefore should be considered inadmissible.

Secondly, the Prosecution alleged that the focus on the Skype conversations and their initial leak is a part of a plot to attack the sanctity of the tribunal and disrupt the proceedings. They urged the Tribunal not to allow any such interference, implying that they should deny applications for retrial based on the skype controversy. The Prosecution noted that one of its own members (Prosecutor Saiful Islam) was also referred to in the Skype conversation and that the Prosecution Counsel will soon take appropriate actions. What kind of action they plan to take was not specified.

Conclusions of Tribunal 2
Having heard the Defense’s application and the reply of the Prosecution, Tribunal 2 stated issued its order. It noted that it is agreed that people’s perception of justice and the tribunal is very important to upholding the reliability of the orders of the tribunal. However, the application for retrial based on the perception of there being bias is not appropriate.

Tribunal 2 rejected the application by stating that it is not maintainable under law as no provision exists  in the rules of procedure for the ICT that allow for an order of retrial. Additionally, the tribunal noted that Judge Shahinul Islam was never a judge at Tribunal 1, he was only the then acting Registrar for the ICT. Therefore the allegation that he could be biased by the actions of the former Chairman of Tribunal 1 are unfounded. Furthermore, the Skype conversations, if at all true, reflect the dislike of the former Chairman and Dr. Ziauddin towards Judge Shahinul Islam, which further exemplifies that he was not a part of any bias or collusion etc. Finally, the decision to take cognizance of the charges against Kamaruzzaman was not taken by the single former chairman of ICT-1, but by the entire bench upon consultation with each other. This decision is based on the presentation of evidence and formal charges by the Prosecution and was not influenced by bias. Therefore the application for retrial based on alleged bias is without merit and must be rejected.

Notes Regarding the Demeanor of the Court
The Defense Counsel expressed discomfort in presenting the application and making submissions alleging biasness. Proceedings were polite and apologetic.

The judges agreed on the general point of the public’s negative impression on the role of the tribunals following the Skype controversy, but the Tribunal was firm in denying the possibility of any actual bias whatsoever or finding any legal basis for such an allegation.