Now it is the home minister who seems to be in trouble for allegedly commenting on ongoing trials in the international crimes tribunal.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday ordered Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir to explain within 10 days his alleged comment predicting when verdicts on two war trials would be delivered.
He now joins the ranks of at least three top ruling Awami League leaders, ministers Matia Chowdhury and Suranjit Sengupta, and Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, who had been served similar notices.
The tribunal had disposed those notices asking people in high offices to be more careful and not to make comments on sub-judice matters.
Yesterday, the tribunal, through a defence lawyer, warned Jamaat-e-Islami leaders to be careful in commenting on tribunal proceedings, otherwise the tribunal would have to take action against them.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam issued the show cause notice upon Alamgir following a verbal plea of a defence counsel.
Citing reports published in three newspapers, dailies Amar Desh, Sangram and Naya Diganta, defence counsel Tajul Islam said the home minister on January 31, during his visit to Egypt, made a comment forecasting the day of verdict delivery in two cases.
The newspaper reports quoted Alamgir, at a programme organised by the Bangladesh mission in Cairo, as saying, “After the delivery of the verdict of Bachchu Razakar, international crimes tribunal will deliver its second verdict within this week while the third one is on the [February] 14th.”
The crimes against humanity cases against Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah and Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee are awaiting verdict delivery.
Tajul yesterday claimed that, “Such comment is derogatory to the image of the tribunal.” He sought action against the minister.
After lunch, the tribunal, in its order, said, “Prima facie, the remark, if true, made by a responsible minister is unfortunate as it is tantamount to tarnishing the independence and image of the lawfully constituted judicial forum.
“No one is supposed to make derogatory remarks on a sub-judice matter,” said Justice Hassan.
The tribunal fixed February 14 for passing further orders in this regard but it did not mention whether the home minister would have to submit his explanation in person or through his lawyer.
On August 5, 2012, Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah filed a contempt of court petition against Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury in connection with her comments on trial proceedings.
On August 29, 2012, Jamaat leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman filed another contempt petition against Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury for allegedly making a statement discourteous to the tribunal.
On December 25, 2012, the tribunal, on its own, asked Suranjit Sengupta, a minister without portfolio, to explain his comments on cases pending with the tribunal.
Suranjit had offered unconditional apology.
Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta yesterday told The Daily Star that the tribunal repeatedly asked “responsible persons” to make responsible comments but some comments were “unfortunate”.
“For this reason, the tribunal's time is being wasted and we think the tribunal feels embarrassed dealing with such matters,” he said, adding, “I think, they [Awami League leaders] should not make such comments.”
Tajul Islam told The Daily Star that such comments of ruling party leaders are “interferences in the process of justice”.
“Their comments show disrespect to the law and expose their ill-motives,” he added.
JAMAAT LEADERS CAUTIONED
When the tribunal issued the show cause notice against the home minister, it also asked Jamaat leaders to be more careful in making comments on the tribunal.
The tribunal mentioned a report published in Bangla daily Prothom Alo, which quoted a Jamaat statement as saying, “A conspiracy is on to award Abdul Quader Mollah the death penalty for totally political purpose.”
The tribunal asked Tajul, the defence counsel, “Is it right? Don't say this.”
It said the Jamaat leaders might make political speeches but they should not deliver speeches about the court and its judges. They might make the political demand to cancel the tribunal but they cannot say that the tribunal is illegal.
“You [Tajul] communicate with them and tell them to watch their words. Otherwise, we will take action,” it said.