The government has added 12 more lawyers to the prosecution team engaged with crimes against humanity trials as new cases were in the pipeline and more manpower was needed during closing arguments of trials.
The government on Tuesday appointed the 12 prosecutors, raising the total to 27 lawyers, to deal with the cases at the two international crimes tribunals.
Trial of nine Jamaat and BNP leaders is going on at the two tribunals, while investigations into alleged crimes of some other suspects continue.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday told The Daily Star that the new members of the prosecution were appointed to assist the senior members of the team as a case had already moved into the closing argument stage and some others were close behind.
“Scrutiny of the pieces of evidence is important at closing argument stages for which they could be helpful,” said the minister, adding, “Besides, the number of crimes against humanity cases is also increasing.”
“They [new prosecutors] have been appointed as we had requirement and if needed, more will be appointed,” Chief Prosecutor Ghulam Arief Tipoo told The Daily Star yesterday.
A senior member of the prosecution said they needed more lawyers since very beginning of the trials as it was difficult to conduct cases without junior lawyers.
About the delay, he said, “Better late than never.”
The newly appointed prosecutors are: Latif Ahmed Khan, Abul Kalam, Tapos Kanti Bal, Sifat Mahmud, Rezia Sultana Begum, Farah Khan, Syed Sayedul Haque, Sheikh Mosfeq Kabir, Jahid Imam, Sabina Yasmin Khan, Riaz Uddin Ahmed and Fatima Jahangir Chowdhury.
They would enjoy financial and other facilities equivalent to that of an assistant attorney general, says a law ministry notification of November 13.
Abul Kalam, a newly appointed prosecutor, told The Daily star that he had joined the team after getting appointment on Tuesday.
On March 25, 2010, the government announced the first tribunal, a 12-member prosecution team and an investigation agency for trying the crimes against humanity suspects.
On March 22, 2012, the government established the second war crimes tribunal for quick disposals of cases.
Over the last two years, some members left the prosecution team while the government appointed new members. The number of the team members was 15 before the latest appointments.
Different organisations advocating for war crimes trial on several occasions demanded that the government increase manpower of the tribunal including the prosecution for expeditious trial.
Shahriar Kabir, executive president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, told The Daily Star, “It is positive but I think it is not enough. More senior lawyers should have been appointed.”
He proposed formation of an advisory body to the prosecution comprised of senior jurists.
The trial of Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee is now at closing argument stage, the last stage before the verdict is delivered.
Defence witnesses are testifying in the case against former Jamaat ameer Ghulam Azam after which trial would move into the closing argument stage.
Prosecution witnesses have already completed testifying in Abdul Quader Mollah's case and defence witnesses are expected to start giving their depositions from today.
In five other cases, prosecution witnesses are placing their testimonies before the tribunals.
In the case against Abdul Kalam Azad, prosecution witnesses would begin giving their depositions on November 26.
The investigation agency of the international crimes tribunal has submitted probe reports of crimes against humanity allegations against Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan and the prosecution is working to prepare formal charges against them.
On September 26, the investigation agency said it expected to complete by December its probes against six other war crimes suspects including Jamaat leaders Maulana Abdus Subhan, ATM Azharul Islam and Mir Quashem Ali, who are behind the bars now.