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Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah yesterday testified that he was involved with Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then “ideological” student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, in his student life in 1966.
“I was elected president of Islami Chhatra Sangha of the then Dhaka Hall now Shahidullah Hall [of Dhaka University] unit in 1970,” Quader Mollah told International Crimes Tribunal-2.
Mollah said he was also involved with Jamaat's student front Islami Chhatra Shibir in 1977 when it was formed.
The Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general said this while giving testimony and facing cross-examination by the prosecution as the first defence witness in the war crimes case against him.
According to prosecution documents, Islami Chhatra Sangha turned into Al-Badr during the Liberation War and the anti-liberation force in collaboration with the Pakistani army committed crimes against humanity, especially killing Bangalee intellectuals at the fag end of the war.
As per charge-framing order issued on May 28, Mollah, then president of Shahidullah Hall unit Islami Chhatra Sangha, organised the formation of Al-Badr with the members of the student body in 1971.
During his testimony on Thursday, Mollah claimed he left Dhaka on March 11 or 12 in 1971 for his village home and received training for the Liberation War along with some youths at Amirabad village in Faridpur.
Resuming his unfinished testimony yesterday, Mollah said after the Liberation War he tried to return to Dhaka, but three local Awami League leaders restrained him from going there on security grounds. In November or December 1972, Shahjahan Talukder, the then president of Sadarpur thana unit Awami League, took him to Dhaka, he added.
During his over-two-hour-long testimony, Mollah said he had got a telegram as well as a letter from the physics department of Dhaka University in the last part of July 1971 regarding taking part in his practical examinations.
“Following that message, I went to Dhaka in the last part of July and stayed in the hall [Shahidullah Hall],” said Mollah, adding that after weeklong practical classes, he took part in a two-day practical examination and returned home.
However, in his testimony on Thursday, Mollah claimed after leaving Dhaka, he had spent the rest of 1971 and almost the entire 1972 in his village home running a business there.
Giving a description of his political life, Mollah said he had joined East Pakistan Chhatra Union when he was in class eight.
“When I was a first year degree student [of Faridpur Rajendra College], I joined Islami Chhatra Sangha after realising the superiority of Islam comparing it with communism,” said Mollah, adding, “It happened in September 1966 and after that I started working for Islami Chhatra Sangha.”
When Jamaat-e-Islami emerged as Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh in 1977, Mollah joined the political party, he said.
According to records of history, the government of independent Bangladesh in its first decision banned five communal outfits including Jamaat-e-Islami, which actively opposed the nation's independence.
He said before joining Daily Sangram, also known as the mouthpiece of the Jamaat-e-Islami, as executive editor in 1981, he worked at Udayan School, BDR Central Public School and College and founded Manarat College.
Mollah said as the ameer of Dhaka city Jamaat, he was a member of its central liaison committee. During the movement against the Ershad regime, he developed a “good rapport” with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia and other senior leaders of both the parties.
He said along with the Awami League and the Jatiya Party, the Jamaat took part in the movement for a caretaker government in 1996 and held several meetings with senior AL leaders.
Mollah said he believed the people, with whom he had “good rapport” and had jointly taken part in movements, filed the “false case against him after 40 years of independence only for political vengeance.”
“I had no involvement with the allegations brought against me,” said Mollah.
Earlier on May 28, the tribunal framed six charges against Mollah for his alleged involvement in murders and mass killings during the war.
After his testimony, Prosecutor Mohammad Ali cross-examined the Jamaat leader before the three-member tribunal headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir with members Justice Obaidul Hassan and Judge M Shahinur Islam adjourned the case proceedings until today.
Replying to a question, Mollah said he had become the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha of Rajendra College unit when he was a BSc student.
He was elected as its Shahidullah Hall unit president in 1970, said Mollah, adding, “But there were 13 activists in Chhatra Sangha hall unit.”
“Sun Set at Midday” written by Mohiuddin Choudhury is a prosecution document in which the writer says, “The workers purely belonging to Islami Chhatra Sangha were Al-Badr.”
Mollah said Jamaat appointed him as the personal secretary of former Jamaat ameer Ghulam Azam in the last part of 1977.
“When did Islami Chhatra Sangha turn into Islami Chhatra Shibir?” asked Mohammad Ali.
“Islami Chhatra Sangha didn't turn into Shibir; rather Shibir is a new organisation,” replied Mollah.
“Islami Chhatra Shibir was formed in February 1977. I joined Shibir in May  and my studentship ended in the same month,” said Mollah.
“Genocide 71”, a book containing the account of the killers and collaborators, says, “There was, however, no difference between the Islami Chhatra Shibir and the Islami Chhatra Sangha except in the name.”
“Discarding the 'Sangha' portion of their name, the organisation substituted the word Shibir. But apart from this change in nomenclature everything else, including the flag and the monogram, remained the same,” says the book.
Mollah's cross-examination will resume today.
Meanwhile, following a prosecution petition, the tribunal allowed an additional prosecution witness in the case against Jamaat leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and adjourned the case proceeding until November 26.
Meanwhile, defence counsel for war crimes accused Delawar Hossain Sayedee yesterday began placing argument against witnesses' testimony and documents submitted at the International Crimes Tribunal-1.
Before the beginning of the argument, Sayedee made a speech quoting some lines from the Quran and Hadith. He reiterated that the prosecution had brought false charges against him.
Though the tribunal several times asked Sayedee to be quiet he did not follow.
Sayedee stopped his speech reminding the judges about reward of heaven and punishment of hell in the afterlife.
Defence counsel Mizanul Islam then began placing his arguments.
War crimes accused Ghulam Azam's son Brig Gen (dismissed) Abdullahil Amaan Azmi also gave deposition for his father yesterday.
Azmi has been giving deposition for three sessions though the prosecution have yet to find relevancy of his testimony to the case and drew attention of the tribunal several times.
Azmi yesterday gave deposition on different matters including relationship between army and civilians during the martial law regimes and relationship between army and other forces.
The proceedings of both cases were adjourned until today.