At the International Crimes Tribunal yesterday a prosecution witness in the case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee accused the defence of intimidating him at his home in Pirojpur.
“They [defence counsels] went to my house and threatened me,” said 14th witness Abdul Halim Babul, pointing his finger at the defence counsels of Sayedee.
“Some 300 to 400 people went there and intimidated me,” said the 55-year-old village doctor when he was being cross-examined by the defence lawyers after he had testified before the tribunal.
“We were tortured in 1971 [during the Liberation War]. Even now [they] are intimidating me.”
The defence counsels were silent in court after the witness made the claim.
Later, before journalists, they denied the allegation.
Lawyer Tajul Islam, a defence counsel who visited Pirojpur to prepare for the case, said the allegations are “not true”. He claimed that in December Babul had misbehaved with them when they went to his home to make a map of the location.
“We have the footage to prove it,” he said.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Rana Dasgupta told The Daily Star that the allegation made by the witness was true.
He said a group of defence lawyers with 300 to 400 activists of Jamaat-e Islami and its front organisations visited some parts of Pirojpur to collect information to defend Sayedee before the trial began.
“We came to know that they also went to the houses of some prosecution witnesses and threatened them,” he said.
The state is providing protection to the witnesses and victims of crimes against humanity as per constitutional obligations, he said.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq finished recording the deposition and cross-examination of Babul yesterday.
It prematurely adjourned yesterday's proceedings at 12:10pm, as the next witness could not be produced due to his illness. The tribunal is supposed to record the testimony of the 80-year-old witness today.
Sayedee has been accused of committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. He was present in the dock during yesterday's proceedings. He is among six Jamaat leaders, including former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam and two BNP leaders, facing charges of crimes against humanity before the tribunal.
Babul in his seven-minute testimony told the tribunal that Sayedee along with other collaborators and Pakistani soldiers looted and torched his house in Pirojpur on June 2, 1971.
He was standing on the street in front of his house in Nalbunia village when he heard that Pakistani soldiers and collaborators were approaching towards the area, he said.
“We used to live in fear of the Pakistani soldiers and Razakars [collaborators],” said Babul, “I entered my home and told everyone to leave.
“They [family members] went into hiding. So did I.”
From a distance, they saw Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Danesh Mollah, Moslem Moulana and some other armed collaborators and Pakistani soldiers entering his house.
“They looted the house and set it ablaze,” he said.
Later, the Pakistani soldiers and collaborators, including Sayedee, went to the nearby village of Sankarpasha and set fire to the houses of Khasru Miah and Amir Khan.
“I also heard that they went to Hindupara of Umedpur village, torched many houses and killed people,” said the witness.
After Babul finished his deposition at 10:47am, defence counsel Mizanul Islam began cross-examining the witness.
At one point, Mizanul told Babul, “Now, I'm going to ask some unpleasant questions as per my professional responsibilities. You answer if they are true.”
Judge AKM Zaheer Ahmed, a tribunal member, then told the counsel, “Do not ask any scandalous questions.”
Then, Mizanul asked the witness whether he had secured bail in a theft case filed by one Aklima Khatun from Nalbunia village.
Babul responded that it was not true.
Mizanul then read out the details of the case, including its number (CR-1160, 1982).
At that point, Babul became agitated and stood up in the dock. He sought permission to say something to the tribunal.
Babul said the case had been filed against him to avenge a case he had filed against Aklima in connection with assault on him, which left hack marks on his body.
The witness told the court he could show the marks.
It was then that the witness told the court he had been intimidated by the defence counsels.
Babul said the lawyers went to his house in seven or eight cars along with hundreds of people without any prior notice and intimidated him.
The tribunal then asked Babul to sit down and recorded the fact that the witness had received bail in the theft case against him but that the case was a counter to a case Babul had earlier filed.
Defence counsel Manjur Ahmed Ansari concluded by saying that Babul, a supporter of the Awami League, had made a false statement against Sayedee on the instructions of his party leaders.
Babul denied the accusation.