The government has launched an investigation into the alleged leak of war crimes verdict against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
A 164-page document, which did not contain observations of or the sentence, was found on different websites on Monday night with claims that it was a leaked verdict of International Crimes Tribunal-1.
Soon after the tribunal sentenced SQ Chowdhury to death yesterday, his wife and other family members showed newsmen on the court premises a document that she said was the leaked judgment.
They claimed the verdict was retrieved from the computer of the law secretary and that it was actually written by the law ministry.
Talking to the media, Law Secretary Abu Saleh Sheikh Zahirul Haque outright denied the allegations. “Verdicts are given from respective courts. They are not written and stored at the ministry,” he said.
State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam told The Daily Star, “The allegation that the verdict was found at the law ministry is completely false.
“It must have had leaked from the ICT [International Crimes Tribunal].” This statement, however, came without having any investigation done.
The ICT has also decided to probe the matter. Tribunal Registrar AKM Nasiruddin Mahmud said, “We have decided to find out if the verdict was leaked from the tribunal and if so, how that happened. We will come up with details tomorrow [today].”
MK Rahman, chief coordinator of the prosecution team dealing with the war crimes cases, said, “In this era of technology, many can do this [leak]. We may appeal to the tribunal, seeking an order for investigation.”
He added that the document, which the websites said was part of the 172-page judgment, did not contain the orders of the judges and “therefore the original judgment will not be affected.”
Without ruling out the claim of leak, investigators of an intelligence agency say the perpetrators might have bribed the court staff and stole part of the verdict from a computer.
It was an unprecedented incident, they added.
Last year, ICT-1 chief Justice Nizamul Hoque Nasim had to resign after the leak of his Skype conversations with Ahmed Ziauddin, a legal expert based in Brussels.
At least two anonymously operated websites -- justiceconcern.org and www.tribunalleaks.be -- first posted the document, which was then picked up by various blogs and Facebook pages early yesterday.
It appeared structurally and linguistically identical to that in the war crimes case against Jamaat leader Ghulam Azam, except for the part dealing with the accused and various depositions.
All other ICT verdicts were written in different structures.
Both websites posted an identical note: “It has now transpired that the verdict to be delivered by the Tribunal against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was prepared in the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.
“A copy of the verdict that is to be delivered today by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 was recovered from a computer in the office of the Secretary-in-Charge of the Ministry of Law of Parliamentary Affairs, Abu Saleh Sheikh Zahirul Haque. What is more surprising is that the verdict was being drafted from 23 May, 2013, when the prosecution was still examining its witnesses.
“A total of 23 charges were framed against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury in relation to offences committed during the liberation war of 1971. The prosecution produced witnesses in relation to 17 of the charges. From the copy of the verdict obtained from the Ministry of Law, it appears that Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was found guilty of 9 of the charges and acquitted of 8 of charges.
“No witness was produced in relation to 6 of the 23 charges and as such Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was also acquitted of all 6 of these charges.
“The 9 of the 17 charges on which Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was guilty are i) Charge No.2 (Maddhaya Gohira genocide), ii) Charge No.3 (Murder of Nutun Chandra Singha), iii) Charge No.4 (Genocide at Jogotmollopara) iv) Charge No.5 (Murder of Nepal Chandra and three others), v) Charge No.6 (Genocide at Unsuttarpara), vi) Charge No.7 (Killing of Satish Chandra Palit, vii) Charge No.8 (Killing of Mozaffar and his son, viii) Charge No. 17 (abduction and torture of Nizamuddin Ahmed) and ix) Charge No. 18 (abduction and torture of Saleh Uddin).
“The file containing the verdict was found in the D Drive of a computer located at the 6th floor of the Secretariat Building of the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.
“In this drive there was a folder entitled 'Alam' within which there was a subfolder 'Different Courts n Post Creation' within which there was another subfolder titled 'War Crimes Tribunal'.
“In this subfolder there was yet another subfolder titled 'Chief Prosecutor -- War Tribunal'. This subfolder contained a file titled 'saka final-1' which contained the draft verdict against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. When the verdict was finalised the name of the file was changed from 'saka final-1' to 'ICT BD Case NO. 02 of 2011 (Delivery of Judgment) (Final)'.”
“The folder titled 'Alam' belongs to a computer operator (by the same name) of the Secretary in Charge of the Ministry of Law.”
Referring to the claim of the websites, Quamrul Islam said, “There is no computer operator named Alam in the law ministry.”
He had asked the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to probe the leak, the state minister added.
The Daily Star visited the justiceconcern.org and found no identity or contact. It has posted the document on Monday under the headline: Ministry Prepared Judgment for the Tribunal.
The other recent posts on the website are: a May 16 article titled “India: Protect Bangladesh War Crimes Trial Witness”, taken from the Human Rights Watch website; two statements posted on April 13 regarding detention of Mahmudur Rahman; a March 25 statement by the union of NGOs of the Islamic world condemning the death penalty of Delawar Hossain Sayedee; etc. All of its contents are against the war crimes tribunals.
It could not be known who runs tribunalleaks.be. In a statement, it said those opposed the government and who raised questions about the tribunal process were attacked, often violently. “Mindful of this, we remain anonymous and wish to protect our sources.”
The website earlier had leaked the Skype conversation.
“We will not offer any comment on the rights and wrongs of 1971, that issue is far too polarised,” it also said.
These websites were inaccessible later at night but one can visit them through international proxy servers. BTRC replied in the negative when asked if it had blocked the sites.