Many in the courtroom were surprised when the International Crimes Tribunal-1 chairman said the court had to share a 15-volume book on Liberation War documents with the other tribunal.
The tribunal yesterday expressed discontent over the lack of logistics support while explaining its delay in preparing the judgment in the Ghulam Azam case.
About the prosecution's submission of supporting documents, Tribunal Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said, “Had they submitted more books, it would have been better for us.”
The tribunal could not even collect a satisfactory number of reference books for preparing the verdict, Justice Kabir said before passing judgment.
He said the government had allotted only a set of Swadhinata Juddher Dalilpatra for the two tribunals dealing with the war crimes cases.
The proceedings of the case against Azam were completed on April 17, but the tribunal took nearly three months to come up with the verdict.
In the meantime, several newspapers had run reports speculating over the delay in delivering the verdict.
The war crimes trial campaigners on several occasions had tried to bring the needs of logistics, including a library and a research cell, to the government's notice.
In his 15-minute introductory speech yesterday, Justice Kabir said Ghulam Azam was a very familiar figure in Bangladesh, and it was an established fact that he was the ameer (chief) of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami and a powerful leader of the Central Peace Committee.
About the case against him, he said, “It carries some special features.”
No charges were brought against him for direct involvement in crimes, the judge said. “Mainly, the charge of superior responsibility or command responsibility was brought against him, which is a recognised matter.”
Para-militia forces like the Peace Committee, Razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams were formed mainly with the members of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and these forces in association with the Pakistan army committed numerous crimes during the Liberation War, Justice Kabir said.
“Although he [Ghulam Azam] had control over the para-militia forces, he did not bar them or punish them, and that's why he was held liable for these crimes and he has to take all responsibility for the forces,” he said.
As per Section 4(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973, the chief has to take responsibility for his/her subordinates, he added.
The tribunal chairman also said Ghulam Azam's case was different from all other cases pending before the court. In this case, documentary evidence, not oral evidence, was very important.
He said the prosecution had submitted documentary evidence, mainly newspapers, to prove the charges. “It would have been better if they [prosecution] had submitted more documents.”
He said reference books were preferable to newspaper reports, as the latter could often be wrong. “But we did not get such reference books.”
About the media reports and criticism over the delay in the delivery of the verdict, the judge said, “There may have been criticism but we have no complaint in this regard.”
“Personal and collective reasons caused the delay,” he added.
He said hundreds of books on the Liberation War were published in the last 42 years. “But we have not enough reference books in hand. We have tried to collect more books.”
“We have taken more time to enrich the judgment,” Justice Kabir said.
Under Section 19 of the International crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973, the tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice, he said.
“However, we are going to deliver the judgment today on the basis of the evidence,” said Justice Kabir before beginning to read out the verdict.