Historian Prof Muntassir Mamoon on the third day of his cross-examination yesterday told International Crimes Tribunal-1 that the Peace Committee members had received aid from the Pakistan government in 1971 as per their demands.
Prof Muntassir said this in reply to a question from war crimes accused Ghulam Azam's counsel, who asked him whether the peace committee members had got allowances from the government.
Muntassir deposed as a prosecution witness on Sunday in the war crimes case against Azam. Defense counsel Mizanul Islam began cross-examining him on the same day.
On May 13, Ghulam Azam, who was the ameer (chief) of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971, was indicted on five charges based on 60 incidents of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.
Mizanul asked Muntassir whether the peace committee was a legitimate organisation.
“The peace committee was formed [in 1971] in consultation with the government. Therefore, it's irrelevant [to ask] whether it was formed legally or not," said the witness.
The defence then asked him whether there were any government facilities for the peace committees.
“Those who were in peace committees at the time could say it well. All matters about the peace committees are based on documented information. I've nothing to say more in this matter," he replied.
Mizanul asked him further whether the peace committees could order and send any member or military unit to any operation during the War in 1971.
Members of the peace committee had suggested that the authorities (the Pakistan government) take part in various activities. The members had also participated in the activities, the Dhaka University professor said.
“Could the peace committee members punish the armed forces for chaos during operations?” asked the defence.
An associate organisation does not have the right to take action against its authorities, Muntassir replied.
Mizanul then placed a question to the witness as to whether the peace committees could push any Pakistani occupation force into leading an operation.
“The peace committees could suggest, promote and make propaganda before the Pakistani military for the latter to lead an operation," the witness replied.
The defence also asked him whether any member of the peace committee had forced any person to convert to Islam.
“There is information and I have got it. But without any documents I cannot say anything about it," Muntassir said.
The proceedings of the trial were adjourned until today.
Ghulam Azam was present at the tribunal for about one and a half hours.
Earlier, Prosecutor Zead Al Malum drew the attention of the tribunal to the headline in a report published in the Bangla daily Naya Diganta on July 4 on Tuesday's proceedings at the tribunal.
The newspaper had said the witness (Muntassir Mamoon) denied his testimony soon after giving it.
On that issue the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Md Nizamul Huq, asked the on duty correspondent of the newspaper in the court whether he had any idea about court proceedings or a recording of testimony.
Justice Huq said once the deposition of a witness is recorded, it is read out again for his or her consent. If the witness agrees, only then the deposition is finally recorded.
The tribunal chairman said the testimony was recorded on Tuesday after the prosecution, the defence and the witness had reached a consensus.
“How could you say he denied it? It's a matter for the tribunal," Justice Huq said and added, “You gave the verdict!”
“For God's sake, consult with the lawyers if you don't understand [the court proceedings]," the tribunal chairman told journalists present in the courtroom.
Justice Huq suggested, “There is nothing wrong if you don't understand. But if you [Naya Diganta's correspondent] are in need of learning, your report will have to be correct.”
Addressing the reporters who were present at the tribunal, he suggested that they become more cautious in writing reports.