The defence of war crimes accused Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee boycotted International Crimes Tribunal-1 as the prosecution began arguments in the case yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday was fixed for the start of the prosecution's arguments in the case. Before that the defence in the morning alleged before the tribunal "plainclothes police abducted" their witness from the road near the High Court shrine.
The defence demanded direction from the tribunal in this regard.
The tribunal wanted to take a little break to enquire about the allegation, but the defence did not want to give any time for that. At this point of disagreement, the defence boycotted the courtroom around 1:15pm and did not return after lunch break.
The three-member tribunal chaired by Justice Md Nizamul Huq asked the prosecution to start their arguments in the absence of the defence as it had been fixed earlier.
Sayedee was in the dock during the arguments.
Before leaving the courtroom, the defence and Sayedee's relatives raised a hue and cry. Some of them even let out sounds of spitting and booed the tribunal.
Defence counsel Mizanul Islam told the tribunal their witness Sukharanjan Bali, who was in a vehicle with him, had been "abducted by a group of plainclothes police" before the main entrance of the tribunal premises yesterday morning.
The defence counsel added the policemen asked all except him to leave the car and go to the tribunal on foot.
Then the police dragged Sukharanjan into another car and disappeared from the spot, he claimed.
Talking to The Daily Star, Deputy Commissioner of Ramna Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Syed Nurul Islam said last evening police had not arrested anyone.
Based on the defence's allegation, the tribunal, however, asked Chief Prosecutor Golam Arif Tipu in the morning to inform the higher authorities and take necessary steps.
The chief prosecutor was also asked to go to his chamber immediately and enquire about the "abducted" person.
The tribunal also asked the coordinator of the investigation agency to cooperate with the chief prosecutor and inform the tribunal of the matter as soon as possible.
The tribunal then began hearing submissions on different petitions. Before going to lunch break, the tribunal asked the chief prosecutor about the matter.
Golam Arif told the tribunal no such thing had happened.
The defence lawyers muttered on hearing this reply.
Justice Nizamul Huq then announced a lunch break till 2:00pm. But before the tribunal chairman concluded the session, defence counsel Mizanul said they wanted direction from the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman replied, "Let me finish. We will sit at 2:00pm. In the meantime, we will collect information regarding the matter from our own sources."
Mizanul appealed to let him give submission on the matter, while another defence counsel Tajul Islam shouted saying the one hour time might be late. The latter also tried to show some photos taken from a mobile device during the alleged abduction.
"You [Tajul] are shouting like anything," said the tribunal chairman as Tajul kept on shouting.
As the judges were preparing to leave the courtroom, Mizanul said, "We are leaving since you won't hear us."
Pointing out the chief prosecutor's version, Mizanul said, "What kind of talking is that?"
With that someone from the defence shouted "Fie! Fie!" and some of them made sounds of spitting.
Before the media, Mizanul said they suspect that Sukharanjan would not be found.
"We assume the tribunal may have involvement in it [the abduction]," Tajul added.
Mizanul said they had boycotted the tribunal following the incident as they were not feeling secure.
The defence would not return to the tribunal until Sukharanjan was handed over to them, he added.
Prosecutor Syed Haidar Ali told The Daily Star the tribunal had ended taking the testimony of defence witnesses and there was no reason for one of them to be in a defence counsel's car.
He added until cancellation of vokalatnama [power of attorney] a lawyer could not leave the court as per law. "If anyone does, it would be held as misconduct," he argued.
Deputy Registrar Mesbahuddin Ahmed said he had helped one of Mizanul's assistants around 10:15am to enter the tribunal amid tight security.
Mesbahuddin added, "He [the assistant] did not tell me anything about the abduction while I was helping him in."
Though the defence claimed they were feeling insecure, two defence counsels were present at the proceeding of a war crime case against another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah at the International Crimes Tribunal-2.
Since no defence lawyers were present at the tribunal Sayedee himself spoke out and urged the tribunal either not to continue argument without the presence of his counsels or send him to jail and continue it without his presence.
The tribunal did not accept his prayer.
Police beefed up security on the tribunal premises yesterday. The DC of Ramna said they had prior information that Jamaat might create chaos on the tribunal premises.
SIX WITNESSES TO DEFEND MOLLAH
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday allowed six defence witnesses to defend Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah in connection with the crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.
Earlier on July 15, the defence submitted a list of 965 witnesses for the Jamaat assistant secretary general.