Thursday, March 15, 2012

'Why no intellectuals killing charge for Nizami?'

The war crimes tribunal has wondered why the prosecution had not charged Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami with killing intellectuals, even though there are volumes of references to his widely alleged role.

After the prosecution finished presenting its formal charge on Thursday, proposing to indict Nizami on 15 counts at the war crimes tribunal, chairman Justice Nizamul Huq still wondered the killing of intellectuals was not included in the formal charge.

He had agreed that the formal charge had "touched" upon the matter when prosecutor Syed Haider Ali said it was there and would be shown convincingly in the evidences.

The prosecution will begin its arguments on Mar 21 in support of the formal charges.

The International Crimes Tribunal, set up to deal with crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, also saw the prosecution submit formal charges against Abdul Alim, a former MP and minister in late president Ziaur Rahman's cabinet, on Thursday.

The tribunal said it would give cognisance order on Mar 22 and extended Alim's bail until then. Alim was also ordered to be present at the court on that date.


The tribunal chairman noted that the defence had requested to be present when the prosecution would present its arguments. Nonetheless he asked prosecutor Altaf Uddin Ahmed whether he was prepared.

The prosecutor said he was ready to argue the case.

Justice Nizamul Huq told the prosecutor that he would have to substantiate the charges brought against Nizami in his argument. Justice Huq suggested the prosecutor come prepared on the Mar 21 for this arguments.

Tribunal member Judge A K M Zaheer Ahmed asked him again, "Are you ready?"

Prosecutor Ahmed: "Yes, my lord."

"Are you sure you are ready?" judge Ahmed asked again, as the chairman and another tribunal member Justice A T M Fazle Kabir had a hint of smile on their faces.

Prosecutor Ahmed: "Yes I am."

Judge Zaheer Ahmed: "Alright then, I will just begin with the last charge and we can keep the rest for later."

He then asked the prosecutor to read the charges, which essentially stated that Matiur Rahman Nizami, then head of Jamaat-e-Islami's East Pakistan student wing the Islami Chhatra Sangha, discussed and conspired with one 'Samad', a Razakar commander at a local school in Pabna district.

Judge Zaheer Ahmed asked the prosecutor why he proposed charging Nizami for crimes against humanity — which includes murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, abduction, confinement, torture, rape, etc — for mere planning and conspiracy.

After the prosecutor evidently failed to make any headway with the judges, Syed Haider Ali, who has been conducting a case against another Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee, argued that the prosecution wanted to bring those charges in the 15th count because, "It was a result of his conspiracy that those crimes had taken place."

Judge Zaheer Ahmed: "But the description of the charge does not state that. It does not say anywhere that he planned and conspired and as a result of his plan these other crimes took place."

Prosecutor Haider Ali: "It is not mentioned in so many words but one has to take this charge in the larger context. The other charges also point to these crimes. This is not really an independent charge."

Justice Fazle Kabir: "Every single charge is an independent charge. You cannot say one charge is not so."

The prosecutor did not quite agree and continued to argue his point, to which Zaheer Ahmed said, "If that is indeed the case, that these are not independent charges, then you have broadly two charges against Nizami."

The judge then mentioned conspiracy and command responsibility. Prosecutor Haider Ali said there would be two more, which the judge did not appear willing to accept since they were lacking in merit. Judge Zaheer Ahmed mentioned in a fleeting manner and said, "We will see about the other charges later then."

The charges proposed against Nizami mainly include crimes against humanity, genocide, conspiracy and command responsibility.


The tribunal chairman then asked both the prosecutors — Altaf Uddin and Haider Ali — why they had not charged Nizami for the killing of intellectuals.

Count 13 of the formal mentions the infamous Mohammad Physical Training Institute, where Al Badr cadres, many of whom were Chhatra Sangha members, would bring the intellectuals bound and blindfolded.

According to a host of publications and references this was where the intellectuals were tortured and mutilated before being dumped at Rayer Bazaar, said Justice Nizamul Huq.

But charge 13 brings a far more generalised charge against Nizami, holding him responsible for all the atrocities that went on at the institute throughout the 9 months that the Liberation War lasted (between Mar 26 and Dec 16 of 1971).

Prosecutor Haider Ali said the formal charge did mention the killing of intellectuals, to which Justice Huq agreed. He said, "You have merely touched upon it. Why not bring a charge?"

The prosecutor mumbled that the evidences would clearly show Nizami's involvement in the case.

Later, however, when asked, Haider Ali kept telling reporters that the formal charges did include killing of intellectuals. "It is there, it is there," Haider Ali kept saying before going off.

Prosecutor Altaf Uddin Ahmed, later, went through each formal charge when asked which count charged Nizami for the murder of intellectuals.

He pointed to a paragraph that mentioned Nizami's role in organising the murders that would eventually cripple Bangladesh. When asked if that paragraph was part of the formal charges, he said, "You think 15 counts include all the crimes that he has committed?"

Not even once did Altaf Uddin Ahmed utter the word intellectual while reading out the 15 counts before the tribunal.

However, according to the rules of the tribunal, it is the panel of judges who frame the charges based on what the prosecution supplies. Thus the 15 counts are only what are called 'proposed charges'.

It will be up to tribunal to decide whether the prosecution has been able to collect enough evidence to frame a certain charge, whether or not proposed by the prosecution.


Matiur Rahman Nizami, headed Jamaat's student wing, that used to be called Islami Chhatra Sangha, in 1971.

Later that year, Nizami was replaced by his current number two, Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, also behind bars on war crimes charges.

Nizami is also said to have headed the Al Badr which had a lead role in many of the atrocities during 1971.

The Islamist party's student cadres are said to have been instrumental in mobilising several fronts like the Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams that actively engaged against the freedom fighters to thwart the liberation forces.

These fronts were notorious for ruthlessly trying to subdue resistance against Pakistani occupation forces and full fledged collaboration with the Pakistani Army.

It is through these militia fronts that Nizami is said to have masterminded the murder of pro-liberation intellectuals of Bangladesh days before the Pakistani occupation army surrendered on Dec 16, 1971.

The tribunal took charges into cognisance against Nizami on Jan 9. 


U.S. May Sanction India Over Level of Iran-Oil Imports

Obama administration officials say they are concerned India may run afoul of a new U.S. law restricting payments for Iranian oil, forcing the White House to impose sanctions on one of its most important allies in Asia. 

So far this year, India is failing to cut back its purchases of Iranian oil, which may force President Barack Obama to impose penalties as early as June 28, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. 

The U.S. law, which targets oil payments made through Iran’s central bank, applies in any country that doesn’t make a “significant” reduction in its Iranian crude oil purchases during the first half of this year. If India fails to sufficiently cut Iranian imports, Obama may be compelled to bar access to the U.S. banking system for any Indian bank processing oil payments through Iran’s central bank, the U.S. officials said. 

While India hasn’t asked its refiners to stop purchasing Iranian crude, the government has told processors in the South Asian nation to seek alternate supplies and gradually reduce their dependence on the Persian Gulf state due to increasing pressure from the U.S. in recent weeks, three Indian officials with direct knowledge of the situation said today. 

India hasn’t significantly cut imports this year because refiners’ annual crude term deals with Iran typically run from April to March, they said. The planned reductions will start only when new annual contracts begin next month, the Indian officials said, declining to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media.

No. 3 Buyer

“Given the level of trade, and in particular oil, between Iran and India, targeting an Indian entity that facilitates Iran’s access to the international financial market should be top of mind for the U.S. Treasury,” Avi Jorisch, a former Treasury Department official who is now a Washington-based consultant on deterring illicit finance, said in an interview. 

India bought an average of 328,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude in the first six months of last year, making it the No. 3 buyer, behind China and Japan and ahead of South Korea, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iran is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Mangalore Plans

The U.S. government may not be aware that India’s biggest buyer of Iranian oil, state-owned Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. (MRPL), plans to import less from Iran starting next month, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak. 

Oil Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai have said India will continue to buy Iranian oil to meet its growing energy needs. While the Indian government has an excellent record of enforcing United Nations sanctions on Iran, India has objected to unilateral U.S. sanctions, according to U.S. officials. 

“We abide scrupulously by UN authorized sanctions,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in a phone interview. While restrictions imposed by individual countries “have an impact on commercial interactions, from a legal perspective there is nothing that binds us to follow them.”

Oil Purchases Rise

The latest shipping data shows India and South Korea sharply increased oil purchases from Iran in January, according to a report released yesterday by the International Energy Agency in Paris. China halved its imports from Iran, from 550,000 barrels a day in December to 275,000 barrels a day in January, following a dispute over pricing terms that has now been resolved, the report said. 

The new U.S. law targeting Iranian petroleum transactions doesn’t specify by what percentage a nation must reduce its Iranian oil imports to qualify for an exemption from sanctions. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they are looking for cuts of around 15 percent in volume, though they might consider whether buyers have extracted significant price discounts, thereby depriving Iran of revenue. 

Mangalore Refinery may cut its contract to 6 million metric tons, or 120,000 barrels a day, in the year ending March 2013, which would be a 15 percent cut from the previous year, one of the people with knowledge of the planned reductions said.

U.S. Offer

The U.S. has offered India help in brokering deals with alternative suppliers including Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has offered to replace any shortfall, according to U.S. and Indian officials. 

Envoys from the White House, State Department, Treasury Department and the U.S. Embassy in India have had numerous conversations with Indian counterparts since Congress began debating the sanctions measure that Obama signed into law Dec. 31. 

Nancy Powell, the Obama administration’s ambassador- designate to India, testified before Congress last month that, if confirmed, she would be “spending a great deal of time” working with India on Iran sanctions issues. She quoted Mathai, who came to Washington for meetings last month, as saying India is working to diversify its sources of petroleum and reduce its dependence on Iran to no more than 10 percent of its total oil imports. 

“That would be a very good sign,” Powell said.

Disrupting Shipments

U.S. and European Union sanctions are already disrupting Iranian crude shipments to global refiners, contributing to a 16 percent advance in London-traded Brent this year. Brent oil for April settlement fell $1.25, or 1 percent, to end the session at $124.97 yesterday on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. 

The EU decided two months ago to embargo Iranian oil imports, effective July 1. Last year, the 27-member EU was collectively the No. 2 importer of Iranian oil, taking 18 percent of Iran’s crude exports. Faced with a shrinking pool of buyers, Iran last month offered India additional crude supplies on revised terms. 

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has criticized sanctions on Iranian oil. China’s crude imports from Iran hit their lowest level in five months in January, customs data show, as the country’s biggest buyer, China International United Petroleum & Chemical Co. (0119173D), known as Unipec, delayed signing a new contract because of a dispute over payment terms. Unipec cut its 2012 term contract purchases by 15 percent from 2011, though the payment dispute has since been resolved.

Japan, Korea

For their part, Japan and South Korea are seeking exemptions from the new U.S. sanctions. If both nations can demonstrate a significant reduction in their purchases by the end of June, their banks would escape penalties, according to two U.S. officials involved in the talks. 

Japan is seeking to reduce its crude purchases from Iran by at least 11 percent, according to a Japanese government official interviewed Feb. 21. The three largest Japanese buyers of Iranian crude are Showa Shell Sekiyu KK (5002), JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. and Cosmo Oil Co. (5007)

The South Korean government has said it will make a decision on cutting Iranian crude imports by the end of June. South Korean officials denied reports saying they had already proposed cutting imports by 15 percent to 20 percent. 

The White House doesn’t want to punish Japan, South Korea or India, critical U.S. partners in trade and security and important regional counterweights to the rise of China, U.S. officials said. Still, the president has limited leeway to grant exemptions under the law, and so far, India hasn’t demonstrated reductions, they said.

Free Pass

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington who has advised the administration on sanctions, said India shouldn’t assume it will avoid sanctions unless its refiners demonstrably reduce imports over the next three months. 

There’s no reason “why India should be given a free pass as the EU, Japan and others significantly reduce the scale and scope of their Iranian trade,” Dubowitz said in an interview. “No country should be confident that it will not be the target of U.S. sanctions.” 

Other analysts said Indian officials have responded to U.S. pressure by quietly pressing state-run refiners to switch to alternative sources, and they expect the U.S. will reach an accommodation with the world’s most populous democracy. 

“It’s highly unlikely that the U.S. would sanction India on this issue. The Iran issue is an irritant at best,” Harsh V. Pant, a specialist on India and Iran at King’s College London, said in a telephone interview. 

The Iranian central bank sanctions that Obama signed into law Dec. 31 are part of a larger effort to deprive the Persian Gulf country of its leading source of revenue and complicate Iran’s commercial ties with the outside world. The U.S. and the EU have piled on new sanctions since November in an effort to pressure Iran to abandon any work it may be conducting to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Iran insists it nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy and medical research. 

Myanmar moves army to Bangladesh border

Myanmar massed its soldiers along the Tumbru and Ghundum border opposite Naikkongchhari upazila in Bangladesh, just as when the verdict of an international arbitration over the maritime boundary with the neighbouring country was going to be delivered.

Tensions ran high in the Bangladesh-Myanmar border areas after the news of army deployment by Myanmar spread.

Myanmar authorities suddenly began to build up troop deployment near zero line of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since Tuesday morning.

Witnesses and inhabitants of Naikkongchhori upazila in Bandarban hill district said Myanmar increased the number of their soldiers Wednesday.

They put the number at over two thousand.

Union Parishad Chairman Dipak Barua of Ghundum Union under Naikkongchhori upazila told journalists that Myanmar amassed soldiers opposite his union.

“But the reason behind the deployment of army is yet to be known,” he said.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Commanding Officer of 17 Border Guard Battalion in Cox’sbazar Lt Col Mohammad Khalequzzaman acknowledged the fact of army deployment by Myanmar to this correspondent on Wednesday evening.

Myanmar has already brought together nearly five battalions of soldiers in Unciprang, Dhekibonia and Mehdai areas near Bangladesh border, he said.

Khalequzzaman said, “The matter was already brought to the notice of the Director- General of BGB Tuesday.”

After that, the BGB ordered its all officers and jawans to stay alert at Tumbru and Ghundum borders.

Witnesses said that the deployment of the Myanmar army opposite the Bangladesh border appears to be a war preparation. 
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