Monday, July 15 2013
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 is set to deliver today its long-awaited verdict in the case against detained former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam on charges of crimes against humanity during 1971 War of Independence.
The presiding judge, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, on Sunday set for today to give the verdict in presence of two other judges, Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque.
‘The [Ghulam Azam] case was kept pending for fixing the date for judgment. By this time, the judgment of this case has been prepared. Let us fix the date for tomorrow to give the judgment,’ the judge said.
He asked the jail authorities to produce him before the tribunal today.
Later, the chief defence counsel, Abdur Razzaq, pleaded for exempting Ghulam Azam from his personal appearance before the tribunal on grounds of his health condition, citing that the tribunal, during the trial, had earlier allowed his absence.
The tribunal did not accept it and said it is the accused person’s right to hear the judgment in person.
Indicted on May 13, 2012, Ghulam Azam faced the war crimes trial on 61 counts of crimes against humanity.
This will be the fifth verdict in war crimes cases in independent Bangladesh. For the ICT-1, constituted on March 25, 2010, it would be the second verdict.
On April 17, after completion of closing arguments by the lawyers of the two sides, the tribunal reserved the verdict for pronouncement on a later date.
Jamaat-e-Islami, meanwhile, called a dawn-to-dusk countrywide general strike for Monday demanding release of Ghulam Azam and protesting at, what it said, the government’s plot to kill the Jamaat leaders in the name of trial. Jamaat had earlier also enforced countrywide general strikes on the days of delivering judgements of war crimes cases against their leaders.
Adequate security measures have already been taken to ensure security in and around the tribunal on the occasion of delivering the judgment, ICT deputy registrar Arunava Chakraborty told New Age.
Ghulam Azam is now in the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University under Dhaka Central Jail.
Ghulam Azam, now 91, was the East Pakistan chief of Jamaat in 1971.
He was born on November 7, 1922. He comes from village Birgaon under Nabinagar in Brahmanbaria. His home is at Kazi Office Lane of Mogbazar in the capital.
The Jamaat leader was tried on several charges including murder, conspiracy, planning, incitement and complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity during the war of independence in collaboration with the Pakistani army and its auxiliary forces.
The indictment order against Azam alleged, ‘At the time of the independence war in 1971, under his leadership, all the leaders and workers of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha opposed the liberation movement. At that time, Jamaat-e-Islami became an auxiliary force under the Pakistan army and as he was the amir of Jamaat-e-Islami, he did not only control the organisational framework of Islami Chhatra Sangha but also played the pivotal role in forming the Peace Committee, Razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams etc.’
He was arrested and produced in the tribunal on January 11, 2012 and was sent to jail the same day.
Earlier, the ICT-2 delivered three verdicts in war crimes cases.
In the first verdict, delivered on January 21, ICT-2 handed down death sentence to former Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar in absentia.
In the second verdict, delivered on February 5, ICT-2 awarded life term to Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla.
In the third verdict, the ICT-2 on May 9 awarded death sentence to Jamaat assistant secretary general Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.
The ICT-1, in its first verdict on February 28, awarded death sentence to Jamaat nayeb-e-amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
The tribunal was set up to try suspects of 1971 crimes against humanity committed in Bangladesh during the War of Independence.
Ghulam Azam awaits the verdict for offences punishable under Section 20(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973. Section 20(2) of the law stipulates, ‘Upon conviction of an accused person, the tribunal shall award sentence of death or such other punishment proportionate to the gravity of the crime as appears to the tribunal to be just and proper.’
At a press briefing on the ICT premises, prosecutor Zead-Al-Malum said all the charges against Ghulam Azam had been proved beyond any shadow of doubt and they expected highest punishment for the accused.
The chief defence counsel Abdur Razzaq said that the prosecution had completely failed to prove the case against Ghulam Azam and, therefore, he hoped the tribunal would acquit him from all the charges.
Following reconstitution of the ICT-1 on December 13, 2012 after stepping down of its former chairman Justice Nizamul Huq amid controversy over publication of his Skype conversation with a Brussels-based Bangladeshi lawyer, Ahmed Ziauddin. The defence lawyers demanded retrial of the cases against Ghulam Azam, Sayedee and Matiur Rahman Nizami. The tribunal on January 3 rejected the pleas. The defence stated that Ziauddin drafted all documents of the prosecution for the investigating officer in Azam’s case as well as everything that Justice Nizamul Huq issued in the tribunal, inclusive of charge sheets and orders. Huq issued the documents as his own deliberation, thereby committing fraud and misconduct, the defence allege.
Sixteen prosecution witnesses testified against Ghulam Azam in the tribunal. The defence produced only one witness Abdullahil Aman Azmi, the son of Ghulam Azam, in support of his father’s innocence. The defence had submitted a list of 2,939 witnesses, but the court limited the list to 12 following protest from the prosecution. Finally, only the one witness, Azmi, was permitted by the court to testify.
The War Crimes Investigation Agency probed Ghulam Azam from July 15, 2010 to October 31, 2011 and submitted its report and documents on Ghulam Azam to the prosecution.
Source: New Age and Others