ICT order today on witnesses' statements | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 29, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 29, 2012

ICT order today on witnesses' statements

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 will deliver an order today on the prosecution's prayer to accept the statements of its witnesses as depositions against Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.
The tribunal, dealing with crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, yesterday fixed the date after hearing arguments from Sayedee's defence against the prosecution prayer.
Abdur Razzaq, chief defence counsel for Sayedee, and his colleague Tanvir Ahmed Al-Amin argued that accepting the prayer would seriously prejudice the accused and deny him a fair trial.
The prosecution's prayer, submitted on March 20, said 19 key eyewitnesses of the case were either very sick or missing or untraceable.
The prosecution had said producing those witnesses would be time-consuming and difficult and pleaded that a total of 46 witnesses' statements given to the investigation officer should be accepted as their depositions.
The prayer came in response to a March 18 court order that directed the prosecution to explain their future course of action regarding witness testimonies against Sayedee.
Sayedee was produced in court for yesterday's proceedings. The Jamaat-e-Islami nayeb-e-ameer is among six Jamaat and two BNP leaders facing war crimes charges at the tribunal.
Abdur Razzaq yesterday questioned the credibility of the investigation officer. He pointed out that there were a few instances where two or more witness statements were faithful copies of each other.
Razzaq argued that the investigation officer did not correctly record the statements from the witnesses and as the prosecution's prayer relies on his report, it could not be acceptable.
He claimed that the prosecution could not bring the witnesses, as the witnesses refused to give false depositions in court. Razzaq referred to three news reports, including one published in the daily Naya Diganta on March 27.
The report quoted several witnesses, who the prosecution had claimed to be missing, as saying that they had been asked to give false depositions against Sayedee.
The three-member tribunal, however, reacted strongly to the news report as disclosing statements of witnesses who have not deposed in an ongoing trial is “judicial interference”.
“I won't call them journalists. I'd rather call them agents of newspapers,” said Justice Nizamul Huq, the tribunal chairman. “Do they have the authority to interview witnesses [who are yet to depose in an ongoing trial]?”
In response, Abdur Razzaq pointed out that on Tuesday the prosecution had presented a similar news report published in the daily Kaler Kantha on March 23.
The tribunal replied by saying that the Naya Diganta report published detailed statements of the witnesses, which is not acceptable in an ongoing trial.
Abdur Razzaq later pointed out that the prosecution did not provide any evidence substantiating the sickness of the witnesses, which they have claimed in the application.
He said there was no proof of witnesses going missing or witnesses fleeing to India, which the prosecution had claimed.
He said the prosecution had referred to Section 19.2 of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973, which says that the court may accept the depositions of people who were dead or in case of witnesses that would cause the court unreasonable expenditure or delays.
Razzaq argued that none of the witnesses were dead and the prosecution had said that they had gone missing, which is vague and does not comply with this law.
He said the recording of witness testimonies began in December last year, which was not that long ago and therefore there was no question of unreasonable delay.
The hearing on charge framing against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed was adjourned until April 2.
Munshi Ahsan Kabir, a defence counsel of Mojaheed, yesterday began placing a discharge petition for his client, countering the prosecution's arguments supporting formal charges against the Jamaat secretary general.
Mojaheed is facing 32 counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Liberation War.
After completing the hearing of the defence arguments, the tribunal will decide whether to indict the Jamaat leader.
The hearing on charge framing against another Jamaat leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, was adjourned until April 1 after his defence counsels prayed for time to prepare their arguments.
He is facing seven charges of crimes against humanity at the tribunal.

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