Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mueen, Ashraf indicted

Face 11 charges for killing intellectuals in 1971

Mueen, Ashraf indictedChowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan were among the “most wanted” after the Liberation War for killing intellectuals, and their pictures were published in newspapers soon after the victory with a call for their capture.
In 1997, a victim’s family filed a criminal case against the duo for killing the brightest sons of the soon-to-be-independent Bangladesh, but it saw little progress due to “mistake of law” resulting in submission of the final report by investigator in 2002.
Bleeding inside for the loss of their dearest ones and also over the denial of justice for the gruesome offence, the families started dreaming anew in 2011 when a specialised investigation agency formed to probe 1971 war crimes had taken up the issue.
And finally, the trial proceedings start as “absconded” Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan were indicted on Monday.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 has framed 11 charges against the “Al-Badr leaders” for their alleged involvement in the killing of 18 intellectuals in between the early hours of December 11 to December 15 in 1971.
Among the martyrs, nine were Dhaka University teachers, six were journalists and three were physicians.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge Md Shahinur Islam also fixed July 15 for recording the prosecution’s opening statement and testimony of their witnesses.
This is the second war crimes case in which the trial is being conducted in absentia, as the tribunal’s attempts to have the accused in the courtroom had failed. Earlier, the court convicted “absconded” expelled Jamaat-e-Islami member Abul Kalam Azad also known as Bachchu Razakar.
Mueen-Uddin, the “operation in-charge of Al-Badr”, and Ashraf, the “chief executor of Al-Badr”, were charged for “abetting and for complicity” by “participating” in the killing of 13 people and “abetting and for complicity” by “instructing” the killing of five others.
Anticipating defeat, the Pakistani occupation army and their local collaborators, especially the infamous Al-Badr force, had picked up leading Bangalee intellectuals and professionals and killed them en masse to cripple the new nation.
The tribunal, in its order, said, “We have perused the formal charges, statements of witnesses along with other documents submitted by the prosecution. We are of the view that there are sufficient and substantial materials before the tribunal to frame charges against Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan…
“We have found it prima facie, particularly from the particulars of facts narrated in the formal charges having reasonable grounds to frame charges…”
Earlier, the tribunal rejected the defence’s petition seeking discharge of their clients, as it “did not have any substantial merit.”
While giving a brief account of Mueen Uddin in the indictment order, the tribunal said son of Delwar Hossain Chowdhury and Deljan Begum of Chandpur village under Daganbhuiyan in Feni, Mueen Uddin was a student of Dhaka University till independence.
He was a staff reporter of daily Purbadesh and a central leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, said the court.
“During the Liberation War in 1971, he [Mueen] was a member of Razakar and subsequently a significant leader of Al-Badr and had allegedly played an active and key role to wipe out the intellectuals, including the university teachers,” it said.
After the war, he went to Pakistan and then to London where he has been the chairman of Tottenham Mosque, vice-chairman of National Health Service, and a director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the National Health Service, the court said.
About Ashrafuzzaman alias Naeb Ali Khan, the court said son of Ajahar Ali Khan and Roimunnesa of Chotovatara under Muksudpur of Gopalganj, he enrolled at Dhaka University in Islamic studies, obtained his BA degree in 1970 and was a central committee member of Chhatra Sangha.
“During the Liberation War in 1971, he [Ashraf] was allegedly assigned with the responsibility of the members of Al-Badr high command in Dhaka and had allegedly acted as the chief executor of the intellectuals’ killings,” the court said.
As a key member of Al-Badr, he had allegedly led the intellectuals’ killings. He had also allegedly served as the commander of Gazi Salahuddin Company of Al-Badr,” said the court, adding, he was now in New York and had been serving as a member of Islami Circle of North America.
According to the sixth charge, between 8:00am and  9:45am on December 13, 1971, a gang of five to six armed Al-Badr men led by Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman “abducted” Prof Giasuddin Ahmed, Prof Sirajul Haque Khan, Dr Abul Khayer, Dr Faizul Mohiuddin, Prof Rashidul Hasan, Prof Anwar Pasha, Prof Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya and Mohammad Martuza entering their respective residences on Dhaka University campus.
“In conjunction with the same event, in furtherance of a common plan and design of killing targeting the listed intellectuals with intent to cripple the Bangalee nation, they brought them to the Mirpur killing field by a microbus and killed them,” said the charge.
After December 16, 1971, bodies of Giasuddin, Martuza, who was physician of DU, Abul Khayer, Rashidul Hasan, Anwar Pasha and Santosh Chandra were recovered and identified from a Mirpur mass grave. But the whereabouts of the rest could not be traced, the charge added.
“Prof Giasuddin Ahmed was found listed as one of the targets of intellectual killing in a diary recovered from the house [350, Nakhalpara, Dhaka] of accused Ashrafuzzaman Khan after independence,” it added.
Other charges are related to the killings of Serajuddin Hossain, the then executive editor of the Ittefaq, Syed Najmul Haque, the then chief reporter of Pakistan Press International, ANM Golam Mostafa, the then chief reporter of daily Purbadesh, Nizam Uddin Ahmed, BBC journalist and former general manager of Pakistan Press International, Selina Pervin, the then editor of Daily Shilalipi, Prof Mofazzal Haider Choudhury, Prof Munier Chowdhury, Shahidullah Kaiser, the then joint editor of daily Sangbad, physicians Fazle Rabbi and Alim Chowdhury.
The name of Mofazzal Haider Choudhury was found listed in a diary recovered from the house of Ashrafuzzaman.
The tribunal asked the state-appointed defence counsels — Abdus Shukur Khan and Salma Hai Tuny — to submit a list of their witnesses, if they have any, along with other documents by July 15.
After the order, Shukur urged the relatives and family members of the accused through media to come up with documents and information so that they could defend their clients properly.
According to the investigation agency, Farida Banu, sister of martyr Prof Giasuddin, filed a criminal case with Ramna police in 1997 against Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman for the killing of her brother and seven others on DU campus on December 13, 1971.
On August 20, 2002, investigator submitted the final report as it found “mistake of law” in the case and said the trial of the killings could be held under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973.
After formation of the International Crimes Tribunal in March 2010, the investigation agency started to probe the alleged crimes of the duo on September 25, 2011 and submitted its report to the prosecution in October last year.
On April 25, the prosecution pressed 16 charges of war crimes against the accused and the tribunal on May 27 decided to hold the trial in absentia.