The war crimes case against Jamaat leader ATM Azharul Islam has entered the closing argument stage on completion of cross-examination of the lone defence witness of the case at the International Crimes Tribunal-1.
The three-member tribunal yesterday fixed August 18 to hear arguments of both the prosecution and defence on evidence and legal points.
Meanwhile, the tribunal on the day rejected a petition filed by the defence to accept the daily Sangram's two reports upon which the tribunal had earlier issued contempt rule against four people, including the daily's editor.
On Sunday, defence witness Anwarul Haque, also Azharul's nephew-in-law, placed some documents before the tribunal to prove the war crimes accused innocent.
Azharul, assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, faces six charges for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity and genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.
During the cross-examination, prosecutor Zead Al Malum suggested that the witness [Anwarul] was involved in the politics of Islami Chhatra Shibir (the student wing of Jamaat) and is now a leader of Jamaat's Kotwali thana committee in Rangpur.
However, Anwarul said it was not true.
In reply to another suggestion, Anwarul said it was not true that there were signs of smudge and additions to his submitted documents.
The defence witness, however, admitted that he did not know about the contents of the documents in detail.
Defence counsel Tajul Islam yesterday submitted a petition to the tribunal to accept the daily Sangram's reports “on the innocence of the Jamaat leader” that were published after the beginning of the recording of the prosecution witnesses' testimonies.
During his arguments, Tajul said whether the reports were contemptuous would be decided later, but the contents of the reports had value as documentary evidence to prove their client innocent.
The tribunal issued a suo moto contempt rule when Anwarul tried to exhibit the newspaper's reports as those were published during the trial stage.
The Sangram reports, headlined “Allegations brought against Azhar during the Liberation War are baseless” and “There was no student leader named Azhar from 69 to 74”, were published on December 27, 2013 and January 26, 2014 respectively, quoting Ekramul Haque Dulu, former unit commander of Badarganj Muktijoddha Sangsad, and Azizur Rahman Sarkar Ranga, who was president of Bangladesh Chhatra League of Rangpur district unit in 1971.
Justice M Enayetur Rahim, chairman of the three-member tribunal, said there would be havoc in the judicial system if someone talked outside the court premises challenging witnesses' testimonies, and the tribunal accepted those comments after the commencement of the trial.
Prosecutor Tureen Afroz argued that if the tribunal accepted the reports, the prosecution would be unable to test the credibility of the remarks of Ekramul and Azizur.
The tribunal asked Tajul the reasons for not producing Ekramul and Azizur as defence witnesses. “We've accepted him [Anwarul] who was out of the defence witness list [submitted by the defence]. If you also bring them [Ekramul and Azizur], we will allow them [as the defence witnesses] right away,” said the tribunal chairman.
Tajul said they could not produce the duo for their security reasons.
Justice Enayetur then asked the defence counsel why they did not seek any protection of the two from the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman, however, said they would overlook the reports if these were not produced before the tribunal.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN CASE AGAINST QAISAR
The prosecution yesterday continued placing closing arguments in the case against Syed Mohammad Qaisar, the alleged founder of anti-liberation Qaisar Bahini, for the third day.
Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta placed arguments on second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth charges, citing the testimonies of prosecution witnesses and documentary evidence.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan, with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam, adjourned the case proceedings until today.
Qaisar, a state minister in the HM Ershad regime, faces 16 charges, including genocide committed in Brahmanbaria and Habiganj during the Liberation War in 1971. However,
the accused has always denied the allegations.