Bangladesh War crimes investigator deceived court’ | War Crimes Trials |

30 Nov

Dhaka, Nov 29 ( — Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee’s chief defence counsel Abdur Razzaq spent most of Thursday arguing that the war crimes investigator had committed fraud upon the court.

On the second day of his deliberations as part of the closing arguments of Sayedee’s war crimes case at the International Crimes Tribunal-1, the chief defence counsel attempted to reveal how the court had been deceived into accepting statements of 15 witnesses given to the investigator as evidence.

Those 15 witness statements, on which the investigator had been cross-examined at length, cover four charges against Sayedee, which Razzaq contended had to go.

The tribunal, set up to deal with crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, indicted Sayedee for 20 war crimes charges including murder, rape, arson and loot, in Pirojpur’s Parerhat area where he has been elected twice as MP.

Razzaq took over the closing arguments after Mizanul Islam, another senior defence counsel, had to leave Dhaka to attend to an urgent family business.

Thursday saw the defence complete 13 sessions with Razzaq speaking in four. The chief counsel set out to deal with the 15 witness statements and how they should not be taken into consideration.

The deliberation invariably veered towards records of the witness house that the defence team claimed to have copied. The Jamaat lawyers presented the court with three registers from the safe home managed by the investigation agency which included details of food, movement and personnel at the witness home.

Those records showed, according to the defence claims, certain witnesses were in fact at the safe home while the prosecution dilly-dallied in court saying that the witnesses were on their way, or that they were ill or simply, although quite incredible, ‘gone missing’.

There was a sense of perplexity when the defence had first provided the court with the registers, which prompted the tribunal to hold a session ‘in camera’. The judges then had interrogated witness home officials behind closed doors in front of the lawyers of both sides. Later the tribunal told the defence to prove the authenticity of the records through its chain of custody.

Abdur Razzaq, however, stuck to his original point saying that the detailed records were by themselves proof of their authenticity.

He had said then, and he repeated that on Thursday that such records would be impossible to reproduce.

Razzaq also showed certain details in the records that were corroborated by other events. For example, he showed one entry saying that one of the officials had gone on an errand regarding three new phone numbers of the witness house.

Those numbers and their records from the local telephone office correspond with the records.

Another entry had one sub-inspector go to a Dhaka court for testifying in a certain case. The defence showed documents of that particular court of that day showing that the said policeman had indeed come.

Razzaq said, “If these (records) are concocted then one would be saying that the entire district court is under our control!”

He suggested that the court should rather consider the relevance and significance of the records and not deliberate on whether their authenticity was proven.

The senior Jamaat lawyer, also its Assistant Secretary General, said the investigation agency had committed a fraud upon the court. “You have been kept in the dark, my lords.”

He recounted the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s in the US that resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation and said the Sayedee case had surpassed even those scandalous proportions.

The senior lawyer had the court watch a television report by Diganta – owned by a Jamaat stalwart and financer Mir Quasem Ali who is also behind bars facing a war crimes investigation – showing prosecution witness claim that they never said anything bad about Sayedee.

The report showed one Usha Rani Malakar speaking rather spiritedly without any hint of terminal illness, although the prosecution had claimed that the woman had become old and feeble and was entirely bedridden. The prosecution had told the tribunal that this woman had all but become senile and would scarcely survive a trip to Dhaka from Pirojpur.

Razzaq also pointed out that of the prosecution’s 68-strong witness list, it appealed to the court to accept statements of 46 witnesses as evidence because it would not be able to produce them in court without an unreasonable delay.

That list had such names as Jewel Aich, a famous magician, Shahriar Kabir, a long-time advocate for war crimes trials and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, a noted writer and university teacher whose father had allegedly been killed, in part due to Sayedee’s connivance with the Pakistani Army in Pirojpur.

While Shahriar Kabir had shown up in the same court for testifying in another case, the defence counsel said the other individuals should have been readily available and there were no understandable reason why the prosecution had appealed to have their statements accepted as evidence.

The court in its order, when it allowed the prosecution’s application in part, receiving 15 witness statements, had mentioned that these witnesses were not under oath when they spoke to the investigator, nor were they produced in court for cross-examination.

Razzaq spent the second half of the day presenting his arguments sitting down with the leave of the court. He said he was still recovering from a bout of flu.

The counsel had hinted to the court before lunch that he might be unable to continue for the entire second and tribunal Chairman Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq had told him, “Sure you can! You can continue sitting down if you need to.”

First case to trial

Sayedee’s is the first case to proceed to the trial stage in the war crimes tribunals. The prosecution on Sep 4, 2011 proposed framing of charges against him on 31 counts of crimes against humanity.

The tribunal also sent Jamaat’s former chief Ghulam Azam to jail on Jan 11. His indictment hearing began on Feb 15 and the court charged him on May 13.

Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and assistant secretaries general Mohammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla are also behind bars on war crimes charges. Jamaat financier Mir Quasem Ali was also arrested recently on similar charges as investigation continues into allegations against him.

BNP MP and Standing Committee member, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, also behind bars, was indicted for 23 charges on Apr 4.

Former BNP lawmaker and minister Abdul Alim is the only one out on bail. All cases have already entered the trial phase.


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