Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ghulam Azam urged ME not to recognise Bangladesh

Apprehending defeat in the Liberation War, former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam fled to Pakistan and tried to convince countries in the Middle East not to recognise Bangladesh, the prosecution told the International Crimes Tribunal yesterday.

Chief Prosecutor Ghulam Arieff Tipoo said this while reading out the formal charges against the former Jamaat ameer at the tribunal yesterday. Ghulam Azam, 89, is facing charges on 62 specific crimes against humanity committed during 1971.

Tipoo said after Ghulam Azam escaped from Bangladesh on November 22, 1971, he formed “East Pakistan Restoration Committee” in Lahore. He used the committee to launch an anti-Bangladesh movement in the name of an Islamic movement and tried to influence the Middle East into not recognising Bangladesh, he added.

The three-member tribunal led by its Chairman Justice Nizamul Huq yesterday began hearing the formal charges against Ghulam Azam. The formal charges contain 191 pages and yesterday 44 of them were read out before the tribunal. 

The tribunal will continue the hearing today [Thursday]. The court also set February 23 for delivering a verdict on Ghulam Azam's bail petition.

Ghulam Azam was produced before the tribunal yesterday but he left after lunch break. The hearing continued in his absence.

According to the formal charges read out by the prosecution, Ghulam Azam, as a leader of the East Pakistan Restoration Committee, met a Saudi prince after the Liberation War.

“The Hindus have taken over East Pakistan…They have knocked down mosques and turned them into temples. They have burned the Quran. They have killed many Muslims,” the prosecution quoted Ghulam Azam as telling the prince.

The prosecution said Ghulam Azam's Bangladesh citizenship was revoked in 1973, but he returned to the country on August 11, 1978, during the regime of Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman. He got into the country on a Pakistani passport, according to the formal charges. 

Earlier in the day, after the hearing on a bail petition of Ghulam Azam, the tribunal said it would deliver a verdict on February 23. This is Ghulam Azam's second bail prayer. His first was rejected on January 11 when he appeared before the court, which sent him to jail.

Yesterday, the former Jamaat ameer also filed several other petitions, which the court heard and disposed of before it went into lunch break at 1:00pm.

The petitions included illegible pages and missing documents among the volumes of documents the prosecution gave to the defence.

Abdur Razzaq, chief counsel for Ghulam Azam, also said the defence had not received copies of the case diaries, which the prosecution claimed had been submitted to the court.

The court then ordered the defence to collect the case diaries from the court. It also ordered that legible copies be given to the defence team within two days. 

The prosecution was further directed to provide the defence with missing documents, which were mentioned in the index but were not provided to the defence.

The tribunal, however, rejected a fourth petition which asked for a copy of the original complaint that the defence claimed had triggered the investigation and led to the case.

In his submission, Abdur Razzaq argued that the complaint was at the heart of the case and the defence had a right to obtain a copy of it.

Countering the petition, prosecutor Rana Dasgupta referred to several provisions, which made it clear that the complaint was part of the case diary.

The petition was then rejected.

Another petition, seeking adjournment of hearing on formal charges, was scheduled to begin yesterday. The hearing is pending with the court and is expected to begin after the hearing on formal charges finishes today.

Defence lawyer Imran Siddiq, in a lengthy bail petition for Ghulam Azam, said his client had motor difficulties and was suffering from old-age complications.

He claimed that hospital food made the 89-year-old more ill and that he had lost weight. He said Ghulam Azam should be given bail as he would not flee the country and would face trial.

Chief prosecutor Tipoo, however, said the ground for the bail prayer is pretty much the same as Ghulam Azam's first bail prayer, which had been rejected by the court. He said Ghulam Azam had been effectively the “mastermind and springboard in steering the paraphernalia of Jamaat” and other organisations like the peace committees and Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams.

These organisations collaborated with the Pakistani occupation army in 1971 and actively engaged in thwarting the liberation forces, he said.

The former Jamaat chief made an attempt to address the court as arguments over his bail petition went on. When Razzaq brought that to the court's attention, the tribunal chairman said, “But he addresses the court through you.”

The court then fixed February 23 for delivering the verdict on the bail petition.

Ghulam Azam is one of the front men who actively helped the Pakistani occupation forces' attempt to foil the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

The prosecution on January 5 brought 62 specific charges against the former Jamaat chief. On January 9, the tribunal accepted the charges and ordered Ghulam Azam's chief counsel Abdur Razzaq to produce him before the court on January 11.

On January 11, Ghulam Azam appeared before the tribunal, which rejected his bail petition and ordered the authorities to send him to Dhaka Central Jail. They also fixed February 15 for hearings on charges framing.

The arrestee was moved to a prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospital for treatment the same day.

Ghulam Azam is among six Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and two BNP leaders now facing war crimes charges at the tribunal.