Alim 'tried' detained people before killing
Abdul Alim along with a Pakistani army officer used to hold “trials” of people detained at a Pakistani army camp in Joypurhat during the Liberation War and kill captives through issuing “verdicts”, an eyewitness said yesterday.
Abdus Samad Mondal, a detainee at the army camp at Joypurhat Sugar Mill who had faced the so-called trial, yesterday testified against Abdul Alim in the crimes against humanity case at the International Crimes Tribunal-2.
Samad, of Panchbibi, talked about his confinement, the role of Alim in the “trial” and how he got away in 1971.
Samad, the fifth prosecution witness in the case, also said the former Convention Muslim League leader had formed the Shanti Committee and the Razakar force in the then Joypurhat sub-division.
The Shanti Committee and the Razakars, two anti-liberation forces, collaborated with the Pakistani army and committed genocide, mass killings and other crimes against humanity during the war, according to prosecution documents.
Alim, 81-one-year-old politician and former minister of Ziaur Rahman's cabinet, was present in the courtroom yesterday when Samad gave vivid descriptions of his “trial”.
Samad, a trader by profession, identified Alim in the courtroom.
The tribunal headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir with member Justice Obaidul Hassan recorded Samad's testimony before adjourning the case proceedings until tomorrow when he will face cross-examination.
Member Judge M Shahinur Islam was absent yesterday.
On June 11, the tribunal framed 17 specific charges of crimes against humanity against Alim, which included genocide, murder of Bangalee civilians, and burying people alive.
During his one-hour testimony, the 58-year-old witness said he was a class-X student and activist of the East Pakistan Chhatra Union (Matia Group) of Panchbibi in 1971.
“Convention Muslim League leader Abdul Alim Shaheb formed Shanti Committee in 1971. Later, Razakar force was formed under his [Alim] leadership and following his instructions, Razakar force and Khan Senas [Pakistani army personnel] killed unarmed civilians for the 'cause' of united Pakistan,” said Samad.
On April 20, 1971, the Pakistani army along with local leaders of the Shanti Committee of Panchbibi attacked Panchbibi Bazar, said the witness.
“Those who had come with the Khan Senas were Abdul Alim, Azgar Bihari, Ayub Bihari, Joybor Ali Akand and others.”
The force killed at least ten people on their way to the house of Awami League leader Meheruddin Chowdhury, which they looted before setting it on fire, said Samad.
In this situation, Samad left Panchbibi for India that night, he said, adding that he along with his paternal uncle Solaiman Ali Fakir returned to the country on the night of October 24, 1971.
He said the next morning, on October 25, a local Shanti Committee member told them to collect identity cards from the committee's office so that they could move freely.
“Trusting his words, we [Samad and Solaiman] headed out for the Shanti Committee office but when we reached Panchbibi Bazar, two security personnel of the Pakistani army held us and handed us over to a Pakistani army camp in the Samirunnesa Better Primary School,” said Samad.
He said after some time, the army men of the camp took them to another camp situated at Joypurhat Sugar Mill and kept them confined to a room.
“After sometime, eight to ten Khan Senas began inhuman torture on us…,” said Samad.
He said, “Twenty-five others were also kept detained in that room.”
“Abdul Alim along with a colonel of Khan Sena used to hold so-called trials at the club of the sugar mill every afternoon,” said Samad, adding that as per the “verdict of their trial” two or three detainees were brought out of their room around 10:00pm-11:00pm every night.
“They [detainees] were charged bayonets first and afterwards shot dead under a banyan tree around four to five yards from our room,” said Samad.
“In this way, 23 people were killed in eight nights.”
Samad said on the ninth day, which was a Friday, the remaining four in the room, including the witness and his uncle, were produced before the “so called” court of Alim.
Alim quizzed them after Juma prayers.
“He [Alim] asked us what political party we belonged to, when did we go to India, where we had stayed, whether we had taken training as freedom fighters, and what types of training and weapons were provided to freedoms.
“We were speaking Bangla and a 50-60 year-old bearded man was taking notes of our answers,” said Samad, adding, “As the colonel did not understand Bangla, Alim Shaheb translated our answers in Urdu for him.”
Samad said although he could not speak Urdu he could understand Urdu.
“At one stage Abdul Alim told the colonel in Urdu that they [detainees] were miscreants and terrorists of the locality. If they were released, they would go to India again and inform freedom fighters about them [the army and their collaborators], which would be harmful for him as well as the locality,” said Samad.
He said he and his uncle humbly told the colonel that they were involved in the student organisation of National Awami Party backed by Khan Abdul Wali Khan as they had heard that the colonel hailed from Wali Khan's locality.
The colonel, instead of paying heed to repeated requests from Alim, released them saying, “Azad”.
On being released, Samad and his uncle again went to India and returned once Panchbibi was free, said the witness.