12:00 AM, February 11, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 11, 2013

Azhar grilled

Avoids answering war crime investigator's questions by saying he couldn't remember

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Staff Correspondent

The probe against war-crimes suspect Jamaat-e-Islami leader ATM Azharul Islam is expected to be completed within two months, said the investigation agency designated to examine crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.
“The investigation [against Azhar] is almost done. It wouldn't take much more time...,” said senior member of the agency Sanaul Huq yesterday after interrogating detained Azhar at a safe home in the capital.
Sanaul said arrested Azhar tried to dodge most of the questions asked by interrogators with the excuse that he had forgotten. “He even gave us incorrect names of his parents. We think he was pretending so that he could avoid answering questions,” he said, adding, “We, however, found a lot of information. We will compare those with our findings from elsewhere and then place our probe report.”
He also claimed that they had “found evidence” of Azhar's involvement in several incidents of murders, mass killing, and torture committed during the 1971 war.
A five-member team of the agency interrogated the Jamaat assistant secretary general at the Dhanmondi safe home from 10:00am to 5:00pm yesterday with an hour's lunch break. Defence counsel Saifur Rahman was present in the next room.
Following an arrest warrant issued by the International Crimes Tribunal-1, law enforcers on August 22, 2012, arrested Azhar at Moghbazar in connection with crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Liberation War.
On February 5, the tribunal allowed the prosecution to quiz Azhar at the safe home and asked the prosecution to submit on March 13 a progress report or a final probe report on the ongoing investigation.
Sanaul claimed that they came to know during the investigation that Azhar was the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, of Rangpur and “found evidence” of his involvement in the killing of several teachers of Rangpur Carmichael College in 1971.
He also claimed that they have evidence that Azhar was with the Pakistani army when around 1,200 people were killed at Jharuar Beel and Padmapukur areas of Badarganj in Rangpur.
Asked whether Azhar confessed his involvement to the interrogators, Sanaul said, “He [Azhar] told us that he can't remember.”
Sanaul told The Daily Star as per the “Fortnightly Secret Report on the Situation in East Pakistan", a meeting of Islami Chhatra Sangha was held at Rangpur Town Hall on October 17, 1971.
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, the then president of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha, addressed the programme while Azhar, “as Al-Badr Commander” presided over the programme, said Sanaul, adding that the meeting urged strengthening of the Al-Badr force.
Defence counsel Saifur Rahman alleged that Azhar was not physically fit and the long interrogation was a “mental torture” for him.

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