The first war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh on Wednesday allowed
former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam’s defence counsel one more
hour to complete his argument praying for his retrial.
This is first of the three retrial applications that the Jamaat
defence team has filed at the International Crimes Tribunal – 1, set
up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
Besides the 90-year Jamaat guru Ghulam Azam, who fainted for a while
during the court proceedings on Wednesday, the first tribunal has also
been conducting war crimes trials of current party chief Motiur Rahman
Nizami and executive council member Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
The other trial besides these Jamaat leaders is that of BNP MP
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, who has filed an application to remove the
conducting prosecutor from his case and initiate contempt proceedings
against the Law Minister for interference.
The Jamaat guru was indicted for incitement, complicity and abetment
of crimes against humanity on May 13 and his son was in the process of
testifying as the first defence witness submitting exhibits for his
father before a Skype controversy rocked the proceedings.
The flurry of applications began after former tribunal Chairman,
Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq, resigned on Dec 11. The controversy
first came to light through an order of Justice Huq himself when on
Dec 6 he noted that he had been speaking to an international law
expert Ahmed Ziauddin regarding the trials.
The daily Amar Desh, a BNP-leaning newspaper, published what it
claimed to be verbatim transcripts of the alleged Skype conversation
between Justice Huq and his Brussels-based acquaintance, Ziauddin from
Dec 9 to Dec 13.
On Tuesday, the Jamaat counsel continued to take the court through
snatches of conversation that had been published and strived to
illustrate, what he suggested was, “horrible collusion” between the
judge and the prosecution.
According to the published transcripts, Justice Huq was in touch with
Ziauddin who in turn had regular communication with the prosecution.
Razzaq first strived to show that the judge’s violation of the
constitution and code of conduct had resulted in vitiating the
Then, in an attempt to satisfy the tribunal, the chief Jamaat counsel
said the rules and the act must be read together. “While the [rules of
procedure] must not violate the [International Crimes Tribunal Act
1973] itself, they may be applied where the law is silent.”
Razzaq said that the tribunal had lost its independence in the
exercise of judicial function. He also evoked the “inherent powers” of
the tribunal in the interest of justice, as stated by the rules, and
showed precedents where the courts had applied similar powers in the
interest of justice.
He showed while there was no provision of retrial in the tribunal’s
act, the rules did allow the tribunal certain measures that would not
expressly violate the act either.
Razzaq still had a few more points to make by the end of the day and
was, therefore, told to complete his deliberations within an hour on
Thursday when the tribunal will resume hearing the case.