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Azad used to decide who to be killed

Freedom fighter testifies about wartime torture centre

A war-wounded freedom fighter yesterday testified that Abul Kalam Azad used to select detainees of a torture centre in Faridpur for Pakistani army to kill them during the Liberation War.

The freedom fighter said Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, used to accompany the Pakistani army all the time and also used their vehicles.

Abu Yusuf Siddique alias Pakhi, one of the detainees of the army camp established at Faridpur Stadium and eighteenth prosecution witness in a case against the expelled Jamaat member, was testifying before the International Crimes Tribunal-2.

The 61-year-old witness from Faridpur said Azad formed Razakar force in the district first and became the commander of Al-Badr force there during the war in 1971.

Razakar and Al-Badr, two anti-liberation forces, collaborated with the Pakistani army in committing genocide, killings and other crimes against humanity during nine-month-long war, according to the prosecution documents.

“We, freedom fighters, had tried a lot to kill Bachchu during the Liberation War but couldn't,” commented Yusuf.

During his 40-minute testimony, Yusuf gave a heart-wrenching description of the torture he endured during his 43-day detention at the Pakistani army camp.

The three-member tribunal headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir with Justice Obaidul Hassan and Judge M Shahinur Islam completed recording Yusuf's testimony and cross-examination before adjourning the case proceeding until today.

Yusuf, who was a college student in 1971, said the Pakistani army entered Faridpur town on April 21 and on their way killed eight priests of Prabhu Jagatbandhu Ashram [temple].

On April 22, 1971, Kamaruzzaman Jasu, cousin of Azad, picked Yusuf and his brother from the intersection of Bhanga Road and handed them to the army, said Yusuf, adding that they were produced before Pakistani Major Akram Koreshi at Faridpur Circuit House.

“When we reached there, we saw Pakistani army shooting a few people to death on the east side of the Circuit House,” said Yusuf. They were released from the camp by another Pakistani army official and then he joined the war, Yusuf added.

The freedom fighter said he sustained bullet injury on July 24 when they attacked Razakars at Arpara in Jessore. Razakars later detained him from Chandra High School area of Alfadanga of Faridpur on July 26.

They handed him over to the Pakistani army in Faridpur stadium, said Yusuf.

“The next day, Major Akram Koreshi went there along with Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu,” said Yusuf, adding that he was tortured in a torture cell.

“Going there I saw many persons [detainees] were slaughtered. My hand and ribs were broken. I cannot narrate the torture in words,” said Yusuf as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Advocate Afzal, Mainuddin, Alauddin Kha and Abul Kalam Azad, leaders of Peace Committee, another anti-liberation force, used to be present with the army during the brutal torture of the detainees, Yusuf added.

“One day, Azad brought some women and handed them to the major [Akram],” said Yusuf, adding that the women were tortured beside their cell.

After 43 days, Yusuf was shifted to Jessore cantonment and he along with some detainees was released at the mercy of an army official from Balochistan, the witness concluded.

After his testimony, state-appointed defence counsel Abdus Shukur Khan completed his cross-examination in 50 minutes and asked him more than 40 questions.

Being detained at the camp, it was not possible for him to see Bachchu, suggested Shukur.

“It's not true. Bachchu himself chose people from among the detainees to be killed by the Pakistani army,” replied Yusuf.

“You were not allowed to see who were coming to the office of the Pakistani army,” said Shukur.

“It's not true. We had seen them when we were produced at the office for trial,” Yusuf responded.

“You have given untrue testimony relating Abul Kalam Azad,” suggested the defence counsel.

“It's not true,” replied Yusuf.

The tribunal on November 4 indicted Azad with eight charges of crimes against humanity and has been holding his trial in absentia as he is on the run.

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