Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Economist

2 journalists explain Skype issue

Hearing on Apr 24

Two journalists of The Economist yesterday responded to a show-cause notice issued by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 in connection with the alleged Skype scandal.
The court would hear the response of Rob Gifford and Adam Roberts, the chief editor and the South Asia bureau chief of the London-based weekly, on April 24.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir yesterday fixed the date after Mostafizur Rahman Khan, a counsel for The Economist, gave the court their written replies.
The Tribunal-1 on December 6, 2012, issued the notices upon the two asking them to explain why contempt proceedings should not be taken against them for “interfering in ongoing trials and violating the privacy of a judge”.
The tribunal on that day had asked The Economist to keep secret the information it had gathered from then Tribunal-1 chairman Justice Nizamul Huq’s Skype and email accounts.
On that day Justice Huq said a person from The Economist over the telephone informed him that the magazine possessed the record of his Skype conversation with expatriate legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin and asked the chairman some questions regarding this information.
Justice Huq termed it “a serious breach of privacy”, and said the people involved in disturbing the ongoing trial process had links to the hacking of the Skype and email accounts.
Showing personal reasons, Justice Huq resigned amid the controversy on December 11.
Yesterday, counsel Mostafizur told The Daily Star that his clients “did not do anything wrong”. He claimed that his clients were not involved in the hacking.
“We didn’t hack or buy it. We got the material from a third party,” he said.
He also said his clients verified the material their contact had given them.
After the alleged Skype scandal, the government reconstituted the tribunals and there was a flurry of retrial petitions filed by war crimes accused.
Tribunal-1 Chairman Justice Kabir on January 3 in an order on retrial petitions’ said undeniably the matter of hacking of alleged private communications and illegal recordings of conversation itself was a crime and extremely unethical.
The order also reads, “This [hacking] is a crime committed with a malafide intention.”
Meanwhile, defence counsel of war crimes accused Salauddin Quader Chowdhury yesterday completed cross-examining the 23rd prosecution witness.
The proceeding of the case was adjourned until March 27.
On March 24, SQ Chowdhury’s counsel Ahsanul Haque Hena asked the Tribunal-1 for police protection so that he could get to the tribunal during hartal.
Ahsanul yesterday reminded the tribunal before adjournment of the 18-party alliance declared 36-hour hartal from March 27.
The tribunal directed the prosecution to take measures so that the defence counsel could reach the tribunal with police protection.