Two brothers yesterday narrated how war crimes accused ATM Azharul Islam tortured them at the fag end of the Liberation War, leaving one of them with a lifetime of physical impairment.
The siblings, Rafiqul Hasan Nannu and Sakhawat Hossain Ranga, described in detail two incidents of torture while giving deposition at International Crimes Tribunal-1.
Rafiqul, 62, said he was involved in Chhatra League politics and knew Azharul, a then second year higher secondary level student at Rangpur Carmichael College and member of Islami Chhatra Sangha.
The 12th witness said he would visit Rangpur Press Club to read newspapers where he met Azharul several times. “After the 70s [general] election, I had argument with Azharul on political issues.”
On December 1, 1971, Rafiqul went to a tailor shop in Rangpur town where some Chhatra Sangha members attacked him and dragged him to a nearby camp of Razakar, an auxiliary force to the Pakistani army.
“Al-Badr [another group of collaborators] commander Azharul came there, and as per his directions, I was taken to the Al-Badr camp on Rangpur's Central Road by a rickshaw covered with black clothes.
“I was tied and slung from a ceiling fan. Azhar and others lashed me with electric wires,” Rafiqul said, adding that he lost consciousness at some point due to the torture.
On information, Rafiqul's elder brother Sazzad Jahir went to the camp and requested Azharul to free his brother, but to no avail. Sazzad then went to a local leader of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Nasim Osman, who had good relation with the victim's family.
Nasim and Sazzad again visited the camp and requested Azhar to release Rafiqul. Later, Azharul freed the victim unconscious. Rafiqul regained sense after treatment.
“Due to the torture, I have almost become disabled. I am living a miserable life due to my impairment,” said Rafiqul, breaking down in tears. He has lost ability to work and needs help of another person for movement.
The 11th witness, Sakhawat, corroborated the testimony of his elder brother and described an incident of torture inflicted on himself by Azharul.
Sakhawat said on a day of mid-November, he was playing with friends next to their house in Mohadevpur village of Rangpur.
An Al-Badr camp was set up some hundred yards away from the house, in a hostel of Rangpur College, which is now known as Shaheed Muktijoddha Moslemuddin Hostel.
“Hoisting a Pakistani flag on a 50cc motorcycle, ATM Azharul Islam was passing by. He [Azharul] was known to me. Seeing him, I shouted 'Joy Bangla',” Sakhawat said.
Hearing it, Azharul returned to the playground and beckoned Sakhawat, who was about 15 years old, to come closer.
“When I went near him, he slapped me across the right cheek with his right hand. The slap was so hard that I fell to the ground, flung 4-5 feet away.” Azharul then hurled abuses at him, said Sakhawat.
Following their deposition, the defence began cross-examining them. The proceeding was adjourned until today.
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Azharul, facing six charges of murder, genocide and crimes against humanity in 1971, was present at the dock.