The trial of war crimes accused Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman is set to enter the final stage as the International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday fixed next Sunday for beginning of the closing arguments of the case.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam fixed the date as the defence for the third consecutive date yesterday failed to produce their last witness.
The court, however, gave another chance to the defence saying it would allow their witness if they could produce him/her on Sunday.
As per relevant laws, after hearing the closing arguments from both the prosecution and the defence, the tribunal will set a date for delivering the verdict.
Meanwhile, the tribunal directed the police to submit an execution report by April 10 on the arrest warrant it had issued earlier against three Jamaat leaders in connection with a contempt of court rule.
The court gave the directive after the defence of Selim Uddin, one of the three Jamaat leaders who was arrested following the arrest warrant, submitted explanation to the tribunal over the rule issued on February 7.
The tribunal had fixed yesterday as the last chance for recording the testimony of the fifth and last defence witness in the case as the defence had failed to produce the witness on Monday and Wednesday.
On Monday, neither the witness nor any senior defence counsels appeared before the court citing "unavoidable situation". The main opposition BNP-led 18-party combine enforced hartal that day.
On Wednesday, the defence sought an adjournment saying their witness could not come from Sherpur due to the two-day hartal enforced on Monday and Tuesday.
Kamaruzzaman's counsel Ehsan A Siddiq yesterday told the tribunal that their witness could not appear due to health condition and prayed for an adjournment.
The tribunal fixed Sunday for hearing the closing arguments from the prosecution and said it would allow defence testimony if the defence could produce their witness that day.
On June 4, 2012, the tribunal indicted the Jamaat assistant secretary general on seven charges which include murder and torture of unarmed civilians during the Liberation War in 1971.
As many as 18 prosecution witnesses including the investigation officer of the case gave their testimony against the Jamaat leader, while four defence witnesses have testified in the case.
CONTEMPT RULE AGAINST JAMAAT LEADERS
Yesterday's proceeding started at 10:42am and Tajul Islam, on behalf of Jamaat leader Selim Uddin, submitted written explanation in connection with a contempt of court rule.
On February 7, the tribunal asked three Jamaat leaders including Selim Uddin to explain as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them for making “provocative and derogatory remarks” about the tribunal.
Two other leaders are Jamaat acting secretary general Rafiqul Islam Khan and central executive council member Hamidur Rahman Azad.
The tribunal issued the notice on the basis of reports published in The Daily Star and Bangla daily Prothom Alo on February 5 on a Jamaat rally held in the capital the previous day.
The Prothom Alo quoted Selim Uddin as saying: "There is no scope for the controversial tribunal to deliver any verdict if the country is to be saved from a civil war."
Azad was quoted as saying at the same programme, "This tribunal cannot exist anymore."
The Daily Star in a report headlined "Jamaat warns of civil war" quoted Rafiqul Islam as saying, "Don't push the country into a civil war by delivering one-sided verdicts against our leaders. If anything happens to Quader Mollah, every house will be on fire."
On March 6, the tribunal ordered the police to arrest the three Jamaat leaders and produce them before the court for “deliberately avoiding” appearance before the tribunal. The trio missed their day in court four times.
Following the warrant, law enforcers arrested Selim Uddin on March 8 and produced him before the tribunal on March 10. On that day, the tribunal asked him to give explanation yesterday.
The tribunal, however, granted bail and exempted him from personal appearance. Selim was kept detained in other criminal cases.
After Tajul Islam submitted Selim's explanation, the tribunal fixed April 10 for further order in this regard and asked the police to give an execution report on the arrest warrant within the date.
PETITION FOR TWO JAMAAT LEADERS REJECTED
Meanwhile, the tribunal rejected a petition filed by Tajul Islam on behalf of the two other Jamaat leaders for modifying the February 7 order so that they could be exempted from personal appearance before the court.
Submitting the petition, Tajul said Jamaat leaders Rafiqul Islam Khan and Hamidur Rahman Azad wanted to appear before the court but could not for "unusual circumstances" and sought their exemption from personal appearance.
The tribunal said it was not possible as three lawyers of the Jamaat leaders had withdrawn their power of attorney and the tribunal had already issued arrest warrant against them for“violating “its order.
"Besides, how could you file power of attorney [vocalatnama] for fugitives?" the tribunal questioned Tajul.
Tajul said the tribunal could consider his prayer as it was a matter of contempt of court rule.
"We consider the matter [of filing power of attorney for fugitives] leniently and that's why we are not sending you to Bar Council," the tribunal said and rejected the petition.
Bangladesh Bar Council is licensing authority to lawyers of the country for practising law.
The tribunal closed its day's proceeding at 10:55am.
Meanwhile, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday rejected war crimes accused Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's petition to join parliament session as the concerned act does not allow the tribunal to do so.
SQ Chowdhury filed a petition saying according to a section of East Pakistan Assembly Members' Privileges Act, 1965, he was entitled to join parliament session.
The tribunal yesterday also disposed of SQ Chowdhury's another petition.
SQ Chowhdury in his petition prayed to the tribunal to ask the authorities of Kashimpur Jail-1 to investigate how and by whom his conversation of December 16, 2012 was uploaded in YouTube.
He also prayed to the Tribunal-1 to take step as the jail authorities did not let him take legal action for defamation.
The tribunal said the matter was not related to the case and was rather an internal matter of the jail authorities.
Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, chairman of Tribunal-1, however directed the jail authorities to take step so that SQ Chowdhury could sign on power of attorney for filing a defamation suit.
The tribunal yesterday also rejected bail prayer in two cases against war crimes convict Delawar Hossain Sayedee as the case documents were never submitted by the prosecution to the tribunal.
Defence counsel Mizanul Islam said two cases filed with Pirojpur Sadar Police Station and Zianagar Police Station were transferred to the Investigation Agency of the International Crimes Tribunal. The cases are still under investigation.
Yesterday was fixed for hearing the closing argument of the defence in the war crimes case against former Jamaat ameer Ghulam Azam at the Tribunal-1.
But, following the declaration of a public holiday to mourn the death of president Zillur Rahman, the tribunal adjourned proceeding at about 11:30am.