Defence counsels for former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam yesterday filed a 600-page petition seeking retrial of the crimes against humanity case against their client.
Abdur Razzaq, chief defence counsel for war crimes accused Jamaat leaders, yesterday told International Crimes Tribunal-1 that trial of a case proceeding begins from charge framing. “Incident of forgery took place in Ghulam Azam's charge framing,” he claimed.
He said his claims were based on the alleged Skype conversation between former Tribunal-1 chief Justice Md Nizamul Huq and legal expert Ahmed Ziaudddin, on which Bangla daily Amar Desh had published a series of reports recently.
Justice Huq stepped down following the publications of the “transcript of the conversation”.
The tribunal, led by Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir and his two members Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim and Justice Md Anwarul Haque, fixed Monday for hearing the petition.
The defence filed the petition even though section 6 (6) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, reads, "A tribunal shall not merely by reason of any change in its membership or the absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be bound to recall and re-hear any witness who has already given any evidence and may act on the evidence already given or produced before it.”
Ghulam Azam, considered by many as the symbol of war crimes during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, was indicted on five charges of crimes against humanity on May 13.
Razzaq yesterday said the defence would file two more such petitions for war crimes accused Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee and Motiur Rahman Nizami.
Earlier in the day, war crimes accused BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and his lawyers locked into a heated argument with the prosecution over their petition to remove prosecutor Zead Al Malum for “professional misconduct” in connection with the leaked Skype conversation.
The petition read, “That Mr Malum being party to the scandalous events to obstruct or abuse the process of the tribunal and deliberately committed so many wrong to prejudice the case beyond his professional capacity, hence he may kindly be brought to justice to ensure fair trial …”
There was a lot of commotion when Salauddin's defence argued for adjourning the case proceedings until disposal of their petition.
The tribunal fixed Sunday for hearing the defence petition to remove Malum.
Yesterday was fixed for recording behind closed doors the testimony of 17th prosecution witness in Salauddin's case, but defence counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena prayed for not holding it in camera.
The tribunal rejected the prayer and fixed 2:00pm for recording the testimony.
Ahsanul Huq then prayed the tribunal for privilege communication with his client for instructions. The tribunal gave the defence 10 minutes.
In the afternoon session, Salauddin was produced before the tribunal. As bench officer called up his case, Salauddin sought permission of the tribunal and began speaking without waiting for its consent.
Referring to Ghulam Azam's case, Salauddin said he wants similar adjournment until his petition on removing Malum was settled.
He vociferously told the tribunal that the matter should be disposed of to establish integrity and credibility of the tribunal.
The tribunal then called Ahsanul Huq, who also echoed his client.
Expressing astonishment, the tribunal reminded the defence that in the morning session they had agreed to carry on with the proceedings.
“Yes I did agree, but my client instructed not to carry on with the proceedings until the matter is disposed of,” Ahsanul Huq said.
Malum then approached the bench and replied to Salauddin and the defence counsel's claims while the accused and defence kept making comments taken from the alleged Skype conversation.
The tri-party cacophony created quite a scene at the tribunal.
Addressing the tribunal, Malum said Salauddin's language was not decent and did not follow the decorum of the tribunal. “He is not supposed to talk as his lawyers are to talk on his behalf,” said Malum.
“You [Malum] came here learning from the chamber! I thought prosecution will be embarrassed. The tribunal will be embarrassed. But now I am embarrassed,” Salauddin said.
At one point, the war crimes accused passed comments about the tribunal chairman and a member of the tribunal.
The Daily Star could not quote some comments made by the accused from the alleged Skype conversation as the International Crimes Tribunal-2 on December 13 directed all media to refrain from publishing or airing any piece or “transcript” related to the alleged conversations.
The tribunal patiently went through the commotion and later adjourned proceedings for the hearing on the petition until Sunday.
The three-member tribunal yesterday also adjourned proceedings of the war crimes cases against Motiur Rahman Nizami following a defence petition.