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Azad verdict anytime soon

War crimes tribunal concludes case proceedings

The crimes against humanity trial against expelled Jamaat-e-Islami member Abul Kalam Azad concluded yesterday and the verdict could be delivered any day.

The International Crimes Tribunal-2 kept the case as CAV (Curia Advisari Vult, a Latin legal term), which according to lawyers means the verdict could be delivered any time.

Wrapping up the closing arguments, prosecution appealed for capital punishment for absconding Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, while the state-appointed defence counsel sought his acquittal from the eight charges of crimes against humanity.

Among the nine cases pending with two tribunals, Azad's case is the second awaiting verdict and it is the only one that had been held in absence of the accused.

The case proceeding against Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee is also awaiting verdict at Tribunal-1, but his defence has filed a petition seeking retrial of his case after the resignation of Justice Md Nizamul Huq.

In Azad's case, it took only one month to complete recording testimonies of witnesses and arguments of both sides, as there were no defence witnesses in the case filed in connection with crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.

Twenty-two prosecution witnesses, including alleged victims and family members of victims, had testified.

The state-appointed defence counsel failed to produce any witnesses due to non-cooperation of Azad's family members.

The charges against Azad include genocide, murders, and rapes. He went into hiding around seven hours before Tribunal-2 issued an arrest warrant against him on April 3.

The trial proceedings of Azad came to an end with the prosecution completing its closing arguments yesterday. The defence counsel had completed his argument on Monday.

Tribunal-2 Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan yesterday said according to the latest amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, the tribunal has to provide the certified copy of the verdict on the very day it delivers the verdict.

“So we keep it [case] as CAV. We will inform you [lawyers] one-two days before delivering the verdict,” said Justice Hassan.

Expressing gratitude towards the judges, the investigation agency members, visitors and the media, Prosecutor Syed Haider Ali said they, through the prosecution witnesses, were able to “prove the charges against Azad beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt”.

“We seek the highest punishment of Abul Kalam Azad cited in section 20 of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973,” said Haider Ali.

Section 20 (2) says, “Upon conviction of an accused person, the tribunal shall award sentence of death or such other punishment proportionate to the gravity of the crimes as appears to the tribunal to be just and proper.”

Closing the arguments on Monday, state-appointed defence counsel Abdus Shukur Khan said the incidents mentioned in the charges might have taken place “but my client [Azad] was not involved in such incidents. It was committed by the Pakistani army”.

Shukur sought Azad's acquittal saying the prosecution had failed to prove the charges.

On July 26, the investigation agency, designated to deal with war crimes probes, completed its enquiry against Azad and handed over the report to the prosecution on July 29.

On September 2, the prosecution submitted the formal charges against the former leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, accusing him of 10 types of crimes against humanity.

On October 7, the tribunal decided to hold Azad's trial in his absence as even after publication of newspaper ads asking him to appear before the tribunal he failed to show up. The tribunal appointed Supreme Court lawyer Abdus Sukur Khan as the defence lawyer for Azad.

The tribunal indicted Azad, a close associate of another war crimes accused Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, with eight charges of crimes against humanity, based on eight incidents that left at least 12 unarmed people dead and two women raped in Faridpur in 1971.

The charges against Azad are: abduction, confinement and torture of Ranjit Kumar Nath alias Babu Nath of Faridpur in the first week of June 1971; abduction, torture and 43-day confinement in an army camp of Abu Yusuf Pakhi from July 26, 1971; killing of one Sudhangshu Mohan Roy of Kolaran village in Faridpur on May 14; killing of Madhab Chandra Biswas of Purura Namapara village of Faridpur on May 16, 1971; rape of two Hindu women in Natibodia village in Boalmari of Faridpur on June 8, 1971; killing of Chitta Ranjan Das of Fulbaria in Faridpur on June 3, 1971; attack on the Hindu-majority Hasamdia village in Faridpur, looting and burning of houses and shooting seven dead on May 17 ; and abduction of an Hindu girl of Ujirpur Bazarpara in Faridpur on May 18, 1971.

The tribunal started recording the prosecution's opening statement and testimonies of witnesses on November 26.

Prosecution and defence placed their closing arguments on December 23, 24 and 26.

Four other Jamaat and BNP leaders are facing trial at the tribunal on similar charges.

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