A freedom fighter yesterday testified that four to five detainees were killed at a Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali-controlled Al-Badr torture camp in Chittagong during the Liberation War in 1971.
Syed Mohammad Amran, a group commander of Bangladesh Liberation Force (BLF) who endured torture for 16 days in that camp, also told the International Crimes Tribunal-2 that Quasem even interrogated him to
learn about their force.
Amran, first prosecution witness in Quasem's case, said freedom fighters had rescued 100-150 detainees including him from the camp on December 16, 1971.
At the last part of his 64-minute testimony, the witness identified Quasem, who was his classmate in school. Quasem, who is facing 14 charges for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity, was produced at dock yesterday.
According to the prosecution documents, Quasem was the general secretary of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat. Chhatra Sangha later turned into Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of Pakistani army, that was especially responsible for the killings of the intellectuals.
After his testimony, the three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan adjourned the proceeding until December 17. The tribunal also fixed December 29 for Amran's cross-examination.
The 61-year-old witness from Chittagong said Quasem, former primary and mass education minister Afsarul Ameen and lawmaker Moinuddin Khan Badal were his classmates at Chittagong Collegiate School.
Amran said as an activist of Chhatra League, he had taken part in the movements for Six-Point Demand, Mass Upsurge of 1969, and campaigned for Awami League candidates in 1970 and 1971. He added, when he was a first-year degree student, he joined the Liberation War.
After receiving training in Bihar in India, he returned to Chittagong in mid-September as a group commander of BLF and took part in different guerrilla operations along with five other BLF groups, said Amran.
Amran added on the night of November 29, his group got engaged in a front battle with Al-Badr men at Chandgaon in Chittagong and defeated the enemies.
In the early hours of November 30, Al-Badr led by Quasem, Pakistani army and Razakars besieged their house, said the witness. They detained him along with his elder brother and five other cousins and hit him with rifles before taking them blindfolded to NMC School, he added.
Amran said 10 to 12 more freedom fighters were picked up from different parts of the city and were brought to the school. All the detainees, apart from two, were boarded on two trucks and taken to an Al-Bar torture camp set up at Dalim Hotel in the city's Andarkellah area.
“Mir Quasem Ali controlled the [Al-Badr torture] camp. I was taken to a room and tortured brutally by sticks, electric wire and other weapons. I fainted frequently and each time they poured water on my face so that I regained consciousness,” said Amran.
At one stage, the blindfold was taken off and Quasem interrogated him about their arms, training and manpower, said Amran, adding that Afsar Uddin Chowdhury, who was Amarn's senior in his college, had taken notes.
According to the witness, Afsar is the general secretary of Chittagong city Jamaat and editor of Daily Karnaphuli.
After interrogation, Amran was taken to another room where he found Sanaullah Chowdhury, Jahangir Alam Chowdhury and Shafiul Alam Chowdhury, who were acquainted to him, said the witness.
“From a discussion with them I learned that on November 28, a freedom fighter was tortured and killed inside their room. His name was Jasimuddin, a teenage from Sandwip,” he said.
From Swapan, an employee of the camp, Sanaullah, Jahangir, Shafiul and others learned that three to four other detainees were also killed in another room of the camp, said Amran, adding that he was tortured in between December 1 and 10.
On December 13, Quasem, doctor Shamim and another man had gone to their room and said he would be released if he helped them to capture three members of the freedom fighters' high command, the witness said.
“But I said I would do that if they released all four, who were kept detained in that room,” he said, adding, on the morning of December 14, Shamim and the man again went to their room and informed them that they would be executed soon.
But they did not go to the room on December 15 and next morning freedom fighters and relatives of the detainees had rescued them, added Amran.