‘SQ Chy looked on as I was tortured’

The 19th witness against the BNP’s influential policymaker from Chittagong said that he was bound and blindfolded before being taken to Goods Hill home on Jul 5, 1971 by a band of Pakistani soldiers.

Wahidul Alam Junu, a radio artiste of Chittagong Radio, was being deposed before the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal – 1, set up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, indicted Chowdhury for 23 war crimes charges on Apr 4, 2012.

Junu said he was taken from a shelter of freedom fighters along with two associates by raiders that included Pak soldiers and a handful of Bengali civilians.

They were then taken to the house of Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, speaker of Pakistan’s national parliament, who hurled abuses sitting on a sofa of his drawing room. “Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and his younger brother were standing at the back.”

Junu said that the BNP policymaker watched on when the raiding party men started beating the witness and his two companions.

“We were then taken to the garage and hung from the ceiling till the next evening.”

That was when they were taken down and handed over to the Pakistan army. The army personnel then took the trio to Chittagong stadium where they were detained till Jul 13. A Pakistani officer heard his name ‘Syed’ and asked if he really belonged to the up-bred Muslim dynasty. The witness said he was indeed, to which the officer apologised and took him to a side.

Junu said the Pakistani major treated him to the finest cup of tea he has ever had before letting him off. “That was the best cup (of tea) I have ever had.”

But he was still very scared. “I kept looking back even as I walked away wondering whether this was only a ploy and that they might shoot me from the back.”

But he was not shot and walked away to safety. Junu soon rejoined the liberation efforts and continued to fight the Pakistani forces.

The witness said he was first arrested past midnight of Mar 25 when he had gone out on the streets and organised demonstrations in favour of the Liberation War. It was the same time that Pakistani forces in Dhaka had unleashed their terror on the Bengali population.

“I was released the next day,” said the witness who joined the resistance soon afterwards and took to supplying provisions to the Eighth East Bengal Regiment, an infantry battalion being raised in Chittagong.

Salauddin Quader’s chief defence counsel asked for an adjournment just before lunch recess and said he would have to appear at the other court to defend Abdul Alim, a former BNP minister.

But tribunal chairman, Justice A T M Fazle Kabir said that he would have to continue after lunch since the court did not have any other cases on hand.

The court-appointed counsel for Salauddin Quader, Salma Hai, was at the podium after the lunch recess. She apologised for her colleague Ahsanul Huq and said that he required only 10 minutes to get himself excused from that court.

Justice Kabir then asked Hai to resume the cross-examination since she had been sitting in and knew the matter. But Salauddin Quader said, “Let me begin then.”

Justice Kabir approvingly said, “Yes, yes. Do begin.”

The BNP leader then continued his cross-examination for another hour and a half before he left it to Ahsanul Huq to wrap up with the routine contradictions.

Salauddin Quader began with a suggestion that on Mar 25 he was arrested with a Bihari woman, and not for demonstrating on the streets. Junu said it was not true.

The six-time MP from Chittagong had it established from the witness that Major Ziaur Rahman, who later founded BNP, was in charge of the 8th East Bengal Regiment. The witness said the young battalion had revolted on the night of Mar 25 of 1971.

Salauddin Quader also pointed out that the road, Junu had claimed to have used for his return to his village, had been closed down after a fierce battle between a Punjab Regiment and the Eighth East Bengal.

The defendant suddenly asked the witness whether he wore spectacles.

“Are you going to turn medical now?” asked tribunal member, Justice Anwarul Haque and the defendant replied, “He must have grown X Ray vision otherwise,” after he had the witness answer that he did not wear glasses.

Salauddin Quader pointed out to the tribunal that the witness had said in his deposition that he was boarded on a red jeep from his shelter in July and brought to Goods Hill. “But how could he see it being blindfolded?”

“Well I saw the jeep after I got off it at Goods Hill and the blindfold was taken off,” put in the witness.

He continued to say, that was the time he saw Salauddin Quader and also suggested that the BNP leader might in fact have thrown the first punch at the witness. “You were much younger then and looked like a prince.”

The witness described certain other details.

Salauddin Quader then asked the witness whether the two of them had been at any school together and the witness said no. Junu also confirmed the suggestion that he had never met the accused before that day at Goods Hill.

The proceeding has been adjourned.

SQ Chy in ICT

The prosecution submitted formal charges against Salauddin Quader on Nov 14, 2011 and the tribunal took them into cognisance three days later.

A former prime ministerial adviser on parliamentary affairs when BNP chief Khaleda Zia was in office, the Chittagong MP was shown arrested for war crimes charges on Dec 20, 2010, five days after his arrest.

The investigating agency submitted a 119-page report with around 8,000-page data to the chief prosecutor on Oct 3 in a bid to prove allegations of war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War.

The BNP leader was indicted on Apr 4 on 23 counts of war crimes.bdnews24.com

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