Mir Quasem Ali (‘MIR QUASEM ALI’) is the Chief Executive of the Diganta Media Corporation Limited, the company which owns the Daily Naya Diganta newspaper and thee TV station Diganta TV (‘DTV’).
The International Crimes Tribunal No.1, Dhaka on 17th June 2012 ordered arrest of MIR QUASEM ALI for alleged offences allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation. He was arrested from the headquarters of the daily newspaper . The Tribunal in its order issuing warrant of arrest against MIR QUASEM ALI stated that “…he had already made campaign against the process of this Tribunal in Foreign countries…”
Although the Tribunal was supposed to look into incidents of 1971, however as evident from the order, the Tribunal was inclined to order arrest for what Mir Quasem Ali was doing in 2012.
Muzzling the press:
Although the Prosecution alleges that MIR QUASEM ALI was involved in several crimes committed in 1971, the arrest came after the Daily Naya Diganta & Diganta TV produced a number of critical reports scrutinizing the actions of the current government. In particular, the Naya Diganta newspaper exposed the legal flaws in the investigations of the government-appointed ‘War Crimes Tribunal’, which has been used to oppress the opposition party leaders in the name of trying allegations of crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation.
DTV also aired reports on fraud of the Prosecution and the investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal. This TV Station was the only electronic media to report on the government’s oppression on the opposition political parties. As a result on 6th May 2013 the government forcefully closed DTV. After 10 days i.e. on 16th May 2013 the prosecution pressed the Charges against MIR QUASEM ALI in the Tribunal and 10 days thereafter i.e. on 26th May 2013 the Tribunal took cognizance of the alleged offences against MIR QUASEM ALI allegedly committed in 1971.
Harassment before arrest
Although arrested in June 2012, the government started harassing MIR QUASEM ALI since 2010 since his media houses had been very critical to the government from very beginning.
Banned from traveling abroad
On 25th March 2010, MIR QUASEM ALI travelled to Saudi Arabia and United States for business purposes. On the same day, the Bangladesh Government established the International Crimes Tribunal. Few partisan media outlets started reporting that MIR QUASEM ALI had fled the country. However, on May 2010 he returned to Bangladesh. Since then he has been prevented from travelling outside the country.
On 30th March 2010, while MIR QUASEM ALI was travelling abroad, Bangladesh Bank froze all the bank accounts of MIR QUASEM ALI and his family members. No transactions are being allowed in those bank accounts till date.
Global Condemnation after arrest of MIR QUASEM ALI
MIR QUASEM ALI renowned for successful endeavors in Mass Media in Bangladesh, has been arrested on alleged offence committed 40 years ago when he was of 18 years only (MIR QUASEM ALI’s date of birth 30.12.1952). The International Community has been outspoken in condemning his arrest. Several instances are referred below:
United States Congress
Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina has called for justice for MIR QUASEM ALI in his speech in the House of Representatives (US Congress, June 28, 2012 ). Hon. Wilson, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia stated that MIR QUASEM ALI is the owner of the largest opposition-run media outlet which has openly raised criticism against the Tribunal as well as against the ruling government at-large. He stressed his concern “that his [MIR QUASEM ALI’s] arrest and ongoing detention may represent a thinly-veiled attempt by the ruling government of Bangladesh to silence its opponents and critics.” He also stated that the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh “is inherently flawed and lacks compliance with international standards” and “it appears that the Tribunal is international in name only, as it lacks international oversight or involvement, experienced foreign attorneys have been banned from participating, and the Tribunal violates at least two of Bangladesh’s international treaty obligations.”
Britain’s House of Lords
On 9th October 2012, Baroness Sal Brinton of Liberal Democrat Party in a debate on “Bangladesh: Human Rights” at the House of Lords said “….More recently, and perhaps more worryingly, when Sheikh Hasina was being feted in the UK during the Olympics, she had ordered the arrest of Mir Quasem Ali, a leading member of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, who is well known both as a politician and through his ability to reach people through the Jamaat newspaper and media group. It appears that his real crime has been to criticise the war crimes tribunal set up by Hasina, which seems to take a very retributional approach rather than the justice and reconciliation……”
Lord Carlile of Berriew
On 25th November 2012, Britain’s Lord Carlile of Berriew in a Press Statement voiced disappointment on the injustice over Mir Quasem Ali. Lord Carlile, in his statement highlighted inter alia that “-The arrest of Mir Quasem Ali, a leading member of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami and the owner and director of newspaper and media group Diganta Media, whose only crime appeared to have been the apparent criticism of the Tribunal set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina”
The International media in one voice raised concerns and condemned the arrest of MIR QUASEM ALI. Some of these are referred below:
• Reporters Without Borders, 18th June 2012 .
• Elliot Wilson of The Spectator 13th September 2012 .
• Jolyon Rubinstein of BBC3 on 12th November 2012 .
• Dr Ali Al-Ghamdi in Saudi Gazette on 5th December 2012 .
• Bill Lambrecht in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on 22nd November 2012
‘Treasurer’ of Jamaat , ‘International Campaigner’ and Influential with ‘Rohingyas’
The Prosecutors made no attempts to hide the fact that they were after MIR QUASEM ALI mainly for reasons NOT relating to atrocities committed in 1971. The Prosecutor Zead-Al Malum submitted in the Tribunal opposing prayer for bail that:
“Quasem as the Treasurer of Jamaat-e-Islami and director of all institution of Jamaat was involved in an international campaign against the Tribunal..”
Being ‘Treasurer’ of Jamaat is not a ‘crime against humanity’ and is not a ground which can justify the order of arrest. International campaign is not an act of crime nor does it comes with in the jurisdiction of the International Crimes Tribunal. All these shows that the real intentional and motive behind arrest and prosecution of MIR QUASEM ALI was to prevent him and his media outlets from exposing the illegalities of the Tribunal
Prosecutor Malum further stated that MIR QUASEM ALI is influential with the Rohingyas and might instigate unrest in that region . It is difficult to believe, how this ‘Rohingya’ issue can be at all relevant with the proceedings and jurisdiction of the International Crimes Tribunal.
Prosecution pressed 14 charges of Crime Against Humanity against MIR QUASEM ALI, all allegedly committed between 8th November 1971 and 16th December 1971 in Chittagong. But the Prosecution Documents (news reports of the daily newspapers of November and December 1971) show that he was in Dhaka, i.e. —- km away from Chittagong, during this entire period when the communications between these two cities were very bad due to the ongoing war. He was not allowed minimum opportunity to defend these allegations.
The Tribunal never put any restriction on the number of the prosecution witnesses and despite that the prosecution could only produced 24 witnesses. All these witnesses were tutored and admitted that they did not bring any allegation against MIR QUASEM ALI in the last 40 years. His counsels were not allowed to cross examine the prosecution witnesses on their previous inconsistent statements made to the Investigation Officer during investigation stage. The prosecution case was allowed to continue for five (5) months from 18.11.2013 to 17.04.2014. On the other hand defence was only allowed 3 witnesses despite their willingness to produce at least 20 defence witnesses. The defence case commenced on 22.04.2014 and the Tribunal forcibly closed the defence case on the very next day i.e. on 23.04.2014. Among the 3 defence witnesses two were veteran Freedom Fighters of Chittagong who testified about MIR QUASEM ALI’s innocence. Despite MIR QUASEM ALI’s willingness to testify, the Tribunal did not allow him to say anything in his defence. The Tribunal also rejected his application to produce relevant documents to support his defence.
MIR QUASEM ALI has not been implicated by anyone in any crime for last 40 years. The ruling regime created trumped charges against him with the sole purpose of political vindication for his efforts to expose the corruption and crimes of this current regime through his media houses. He was not given minimum opportunity to defend the charges brought against him.