The verdict of Professor Ghulam Azam, the 91 year old retired head of political party Jamaat-e-Islami, is expected on Monday June 15, 2013. ICT-1, led by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, passed the order on Sunday.
Prof Azam’s verdict had been expected since the conclusion of his trial on April 17 2013. He was indicted on May 13, 2012, for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 War of Independence. The prosecutors brought 62 charges against Azam and claimed he was a “lighthouse” during the war, alleging his command responsibility for all atrocities committed. The tribunal indicted Prof Azam on five charges.
Azam has denied all charges, challenging his accusers to prove their allegations. His defence counsel dismissed the allegations, terming the trial a mockery and stating the prosecution have failed to prove their case. They state none of the prosecution witnesses were capable of providing any details or evidence directly implicating Prof Azam in the crimes. Further that while the prosecution suggest Azam held command responsibility during the war, Azam was a civilian neither in military nor government; only officials of military and government hold command responsibility in war.
The defence adds that while the prosecution were permitted leave to present an unlimited number of witnesses, the court arbitrarily limited Prof Azam’s defence to 12 witnesses on request of the prosecution, raising questions as to the fairness of the trials. Later the court permitted only one defence witness to present. The defence had initially presented a list of 2,939 witnesses.
Prof Ghulam Azam was longtime Ameer [head] of Jamaat in Bangladesh, including during the war years. He retired from active politics in 2000.
The ICT was set up with the stated aim to bring an end to the culture of impunity surrounding the atrocities committed during the 1971 war by bringing the perpetrators to justice. This aim has held wide support among Bangladeshis keen for justice over its bloody past. However, the trials have been marred by irregularities and scandals, and have faced accusations of being politically motivated rather than intent on justice. The ICT has been widely criticised by the international community and has provoked violent unrest within Bangladesh.
Monday’s verdict has been much anticipated, with mixed expectations.