A listed prosecution witness, who gave her testimony as the fourth defence witness in the war crimes case against Abdul Quader Mollah, claimed she did not hear the accused's name until yesterday.
Meanwhile, war crimes investigators have found evidence of alleged involvement of detained Jamaat-e-Islami acting secretary general ATM Azharul Islam in mass killings during the Liberation War.
During her 18-minute testimony, defence witness Mosammat Sahera, sister-in-law of martyr Pallab, who was allegedly killed on Mollah's instruction, did not even utter the accused Jamaat leader's name.
“I have never heard the name of Quader Mollah until today [Sunday],” she said during her one-hour cross-examination.
But her claim contradicted with her earlier answer when she said Quader Mollah's son had asked her to testify in favour of his father three to four days ago.
Sahera was an additional prosecution witness and she was not produced before the tribunal, as the prosecution thought 10 public witnesses, who had already testified, were sufficient to prove the charges brought against Mollah, Prosecutor Mohammad Ali told The Daily Star.
But the defence yesterday filed a petition to allow Sahera testify as their witness in the case, which the prosecution opposed.
The three-member International Crimes Tribunal-2 headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir with members Justice Obaidul Hassan and Judge M Shahinur Islam granted the defence petition.
The tribunal, however, brought a slight amendment to its earlier order, which directed the defence to produce their witnesses from their 965-witness list.
Sahera was not on the list of 965 defence witnesses.
The 60-year-old witness from Taltala slum of Pallabi said she along with her husband, mother-in-law and brothers-in-law took shelter in Savar during the war.
She added one of her brothers-in-law Pallab alias Tuntuni was a student of Mirpur Bangla College in 1971.
“Akhter Gunda and Biharis killed Pallab during the Liberation War in 1971,” said Sahera, adding, “I heard about the killing of my brother-in-law from people.
“I heard that my brother-in-law was on his way to India to take part in the war, but they [Akhter Gunda and Biharis] killed him at Muslim Bazar Eidgah [at Mirpur-12] after picking him up from Nawabpur,” said Sahera.
According to the prosecution, Akhter Gunda shot Pallab to death on Quader Mollah's orders.
According to the indictment order of May 28, anti-liberation people detained Pallab, an organiser of the Liberation War, from Nawabpur and kept him hanging from a tree at Mirpur-12 Eidgah field.
On April 5, 1971, on Quader Mollah's orders, his accomplice Akhter, an Al-Badr member, shot Pallab dead and buried him near the Kalapani Jheel along with seven other bodies.
Sahera claimed that she did not give any statement to anybody in this case.
After her testimony, Mohammad Ali, the conducting prosecutor of the case, completed her cross-examination before the tribunal adjourned the case proceedings until today.
Replying to a question, Sahera said she did not get any summon or notice from the tribunal to testify.
Sahera said she was acquainted to Nasiruddin of Mirpur Jalladkhana Pump House and she had gone to the pump house around a year ago and had talked to him.
“In presence of Nasiruddin at Jalladkhana, Abdur Razzaque Khan and Manowara Begum [two investigation officers of the case] talked to you [that day],” suggested Ali.
“Did you hear that Quader Mollah was a leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha [then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami]?” asked the prosecutor.
“I didn't. I never heard the name of Quader Mollah in my life,” replied Sahera.
Mollah, the then president of Dhaka University Shahidullah Hall unit Chhatra Sangha, organised the formation of Al-Badr with members of the student body in 1971, according to the prosecution.
“Around a year ago, in presence of Nasiruddin at the Pump House of Mirpur Jalladkhana, you had told Abdur Razzaque Khan and Manowara Begum that Pallab was killed at Quader Mollah's directives,” suggested Ali.
“It's not true. I have not gone to Jalladkhana in more than a year. Many days ago, it might be five or six years when I went there,” replied Sahera.
“You have given a false testimony due to life threats made against you and you have been allured with a huge amount of money,” suggested Ali.
“It's not true,” replied Sahera.
On May 28, the tribunal framed six charges against Mollah for his alleged involvement in murders and mass killings during the Liberation War.
PROBE AGAINST AZHAR
As the war crimes investigators have found alleged involvement of Azhar in mass killings, prosecutor Nurjahan Begum Mukta yesterday made a prayer to the International Crimes Tribunal-1 seeking more time for completing the probe.
Following her submission, the tribunal fixed February 5, 2013 for submitting a progress report on the investigation.
In her submission, Mukta said investigation officer SM Idris Ali had found evidence of involvement of Azhar in two separate war crimes incidents which were annexed to the petition.
She later told journalists that during the war Azhar had regular access to Rangpur Cantonment and tipped the Pakistani army about eminent citizens of Rangpur.
On the basis of his information, the Pakistani army picked up 84 people of Syedpur including Zikrul Haque from Nilphamari and shot them dead near Jhalar Khal of Rangpur, she said.
She said, “In another incident, with the direct assistance of Azhar, the Pakistani army picked up 50 people including lawyers Bijoy Chandra Moitra, Purnachandra Sarkar and Shankar Banik at Rangpur and killed them on the Ghaghot river on May 25.”
Azhar was produced before the tribunal yesterday.
Police on August 23 arrested Azhar in connection with the crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War. The tribunal on August 24 sent him to jail.
Meanwhile, the defence of war crimes accused Delawar Hossain Sayedee yesterday placed argument all day long at the tribunal.