Defence files more retrial petitions before ICT

The defence lawyers of Jamaat-e-Islami have filed two more retrial petitions for their leaders accused of war crimes.

The Jamaat defence team had filed an application for the retrial of the party’s former chief Ghulam Azam on Dec 19 and had indicated that they would submit similar prayers before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) over the ongoing trails of other party leaders.

The three-judge International Crimes Tribunal – 1, set up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, has been conducting four trials — three of them against Jamaat leaders and one against a BNP leader.

The tribunal had indicted Azam on five charges, Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami for 16 charges, Jamaat executive council member Delwar Hossain Sayedee for 20 and BNP MP Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for 23 charges.

The BNP policymaker, Chowdhury’s lawyers have filed for the removal of the conducting prosecutor. That application is also expected to be heard on Monday as it is apparently similar to those filed by the Jamaat lawyers.

Both parties, Chowdhury and Jamaat defence team, have requested that the trial proceedings be put on hold until the court has heard and disposed of the retrial applications.

Currently, Sayedee’s case is in the most advanced stage and is awaiting verdict, which the court said would require more deliberation. Ghulam Azam’s son is in the process of submitting exhibits as the first defence witness. Nizami’s second prosecution witness is still to face cross-examination while the 17th prosecution witness against SQ Chowdhury waits to give her testimony.

The flurry of such drastic applications began in the wake of a controversy that first came to light on Dec 6 through an order of the former tribunal chairman Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq, who has since resigned.

Justice Huq’s resignation came five days later on Dec 11 after a the daily Amar Desh, a BNP-leaning newspaper, published what it claimed to be the transcripts of Justice Huq’s alleged Skype conversation with a Brussels-based academic Ahmed Ziauddin.

The defence says that Ziauddin, an international law expert, had also been helping the prosecution with its strategy and Justice Huq’s association with Ziauddin, an old acquaintance, had vitiated the proceedings.

Although the defence had prayed that the court heard the retrial applications on Monday, the chief Jamaat counsel, Abdur Razzaq pleaded on Sunday that it allowed former law minister Moudud Ahmed to make some points.

The court eventually agreed to hear the senior BNP politician who pointed out two provisions of the tribunal’s law stressing on the independence of the tribunal and its judges and fair trial.

Ahmed submitted to the court that it would be up to the court to decide whether the judge — meaning the former chairman Justice Huq — had lost his independence in judicial function pointing out that an outsider was in a position to influence him.

“We will show based on facts presented before you that the trial was vitiated,” said Moudud. He, however, refrained from stating what those facts were.

The senior BNP MP said that the tribunal could well decide to proceed with the trial accepting everything that happened in the past. “But will that ensure a fair trial?”

Moudud said that the judges would have to decide for themselves whether the tribunal had indeed lost its independence. He wondered whether the court would still have its credibility accepting whatever had happened before.

A former vice president during the regime of the deposed dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad, was allowed to move the application at the discretion of the court. Noting that the tribunal had fixed Monday for hearing those applications, the tribunal chairman Justice A T M Fazle Kabir allowed Moudud to submit.

“Do deliberate on the law points only,” said the judge.

The Jamaat lawyers are expected to move their applications on Monday followed by Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s defence team making its submission.

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