War Crimes Accused Given Last Warning at Tribunal

Tuesday May 16, 2012 The Daily Star

Staff Correspondent

Noted educationist Prof Anisuzzaman yesterday narrated to International Crimes Tribunal-1 two incidents of crimes against humanity that BNP lawmaker Salauddin Quader Chowdhury had allegedly committed during the Liberation War in 1971.

Taking the dock as the first prosecution witness against Salauddin, Prof Anisuzzaman told the tribunal about the murder of Natun Chandra Singh and torture on a then Chittagong University student.

He narrated the incidents as he had heard from the victims and witnesses of the atrocities.

After Anisuzzaman, 75, had finished his deposition, the defence started cross-examining him. The cross-examination will continue today.

Yesterday’s, one-and-a-half-hours’ cross-examination was marked with several verbal spats among the three-member judge panel, the prosecution, accused SQ Chowdhury and his counsels.

The outspoken BNP leader at one point shouted at the tribunal and attempted to intervene court proceedings several times. His repeated interruptions prompted the court to warn the Chittagong MP for the final time.

Nizamul Huq, chairman of the judge panel, warned SQ Chowdhury that if he continued with such behaviour, the court would proceed with the trial without his presence.

Prof Anisuzzaman was a Reader (Associate Professor) of Bangla department at Chittagong University in 1971.

He along with others formed resistance against the Pakistani occupation force when they launched attacks on Bangladeshi people on March 25, 1971.

“When we realised that our resistance was weak, we decided to move all the families living in the campus residential areas,” said Prof Anisuzzaman, adding that families of some teachers, including his wife and two daughters, took refuge in Kundeshwari Girls’ Primary School.

Founder of the school Natun Chandra Singh and his family also took shelter there at that time.

On April 02 that year, Prof Anisuzzaman and his family moved to Kathirhaat village of Haathazari upazila in Chittagong and later on April 10 took shelter to his friend’s elder brother’s house in Ramgarh under Jharkhand state of India before moving to Kolkata on May 15. In Ramgarh, he met Profulla Ranjan Singh, the youngest son of Natun Chandra Singh.

Profulla told him, “Pakistani military entered Kundershwari and had a talk with his father [Natun Chandra]. As the military were leaving Salauddin Quader had told them something and they shot dead my father.”

Natun’s body remained in front of his house for three days until locals performed his last rites.

After the independence, when Profulla returned to Bangladesh he heard the story of his father’s killing from locals. They said Salauddin Quader, who was then known as Major, had shot Natun Chandra dead with his own gun.

Profulla shared this version of locals with Prof Anisuzzaman when he [Anisuzzaman] returned to Bangladesh on January 6, 1972 and rejoined Chittagong University, according to the deposition.

Mentionable, Profulla is also a prosecution witness.

Prof Anisuzzaman yesterday on permission from Tribunal-1 mentioned of another incident, in which Salauddin Quader was involved.

He said Saleh Uddin, who was then a student of Chittagong University, had been abducted by Razakars (collaborator of the then Pakistani army) on the allegation of keeping contacts with freedom fighters.

Saleh was kept at Fazlul Quader Chowdhury’s [father of Salauddin] house Good Hills and Salauddin along with others tortured him, said Anisuzzaman.

After the independence, Saleh Uddin narrated the incident at a senate meeting of Chittagong University and showed the torture marks, claimed the witness. Saleh Uddin is now the Vice-Chancellor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.

Prof Anisuzzaman gave his testimony to a member of the case’s investigation team on September 28, 2011.

During his deposition Prosecutor Zead Al Malum tried to bring some more information against the accused but the tribunal did not record any leading question. The court, on the contrary, asked Zead to take suggestion from his seniors on how to question a witness.

The defence sought time from the court to examine Anisuzzaman’s deposition when the tribunal asked it to begin cross-examining the witness.

The defence claimed that there were discrepancies between the testimonies given to the court and to the investigation officer.

Justice Nizamul Huq rejected the appeal.

Defence counsel Fakhrul Islam asked Prof Anisuzzamn about his birthplace. The witness said Kolkata in reply.

The lawyer then alleged that the witness had been changing his birthplace according to his convenience.

In response the noted educationist said his original birthplace is Kolkata but in the passport. issued in 1955, his birthplace was mentioned as Khulna. In 1996, he applied to the home ministry to correct his birthplace and change it to Kolkata based on relevant documents.

Fakhrul Islam then called the witness a liar on top of his voice.

However, before Fakhrul could proceed, Justice Nizamul Huq stopped him and cautioned him over his use of language.

“He is a witness to the court and a respected man. This is not a magistrate court. If you continue to use offensive words, serious actions will be taken against you,” said Justice Nizamul Huq.

Fakhrul Islam then asked the witness whether he and his family had come to then East Pakistan as refugees.

The professor said the people who came to Pakistan could perhaps be termed “refugees” in general. “But we never claimed any benefits or privileges as refugees,” he added.

During the cross-examination the defence asked Anisuzzaman when he had become a citizen of Pakistan.

The court termed the question irrelevant as there were laws that could explain the matter.

At that time, Salauddin Quader stood up to make a point. He said, “I have remained quiet until now. But I have the right to cross-examine the witness and I must.”

In response Justice Huq said, “Not while your counsels are present.’

However, Salauddin refused to keep quiet. At one stage Justice Huq had to call out the accused by his name to warn him.

“Mr Nizamul Huq!” responded Salauddin blatantly but reverted to a more respectful voice within moments. He said, “Please don’t show me the red eye.” He repeated this several times.

At this the tribunal chief decided to issue an order. The order noted that the accused, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, had his counsels and thus would not be allowed to talk in the court.

Justice Huq also stated in the order that his court had previously cautioned the accused over similar behaviour. “We caution the accused for the last time.”

The trial against Salauddin would continue in his absence if he did not give up such behaviour, said the order.

The tribunal has recently amended its rule and included a new provision allowing it to conduct a trial in absence of an accused if that person proved to be unruly.

Following the court proceedings, defence counsel Fakhrul Islam told newsmen that his client did not speak impolitely but loudly as there was no microphone in the courtroom. At this time he again called the witness a liar.