Dhaka, Nov 12 (bdnews24.com) — Jamaat-e-Islami guru Ghulam Azam’s son Abdullahil Amaan Azmi on Monday testified as the first defence witness for his father at the first war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh.
However, the 53-year old Azmi, a former infantry officer with a military career of 30 years, only managed to get through a part of his own background.
Early in his deposition, which began after the lunch recess, the International Crimes Tribunal-1, had a portion of his statement stricken off the records. This related to the former Brigadier’s termination from the military in 2009.
He had stated that it was after the Awami League-ruled government took office that he was illegally dismissed without any hearing, complaints or investigations for the sole reason that he was the son of Ghulam Azam, whom the Awami League, Azmi said, could not contain politically.
Tribunal Chairman Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq said the court could not accept ‘illegally’. Neither would the court accept the part where Azmi said he was fired only for being his father’s son.
Justice Huq said his complaints could remain but the court would not accept that it was illegal. “It must have happened according to army rules. The termination must have adhered to certain regulations. So it cannot be said to have been illegal.”
Both the Azmi and his senior counsel Mizanul Islam protested that the statement had a direct bearing on the case and that in fact it was rather pertinent.
Justice Huq said, “He must have gotten something when he was terminated. Did [that paper] say he was being fired for being Ghulam Azam’s son?”
Azmi took the stand and said he would touch upon four specific topics including martial law government and military in aid to civil — circumstances in which the former infantryman served.
Azmi said he would also analyse Bangladesh’s geostrategic location and Bangladesh’s relation with India in that context, army command control and command structure, Bangladesh’s relations within the region and Ghulam Azam’s life and politics.
Azami, having won the prestigious Sword of Honour for best all-round performance, besides winning other honours, began his career in an East Bengal Regiment in 1982.
Ghulam Azam’s son took the court through his postings and responsibilities and was still not done with that after speaking for almost two hours.
He is set to resume on Tuesday at 2pm. The first half of the day will presumably be taken up by Prosecutor Syed Haider Ali for his closing arguments in the war crimes case against another Jamaat leader, Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
Jamaat Guru in ICT-1
On Dec 12, 2011, the prosecution brought a 52-point charter of charges against Azam and appealed for his arrest. Later, following the tribunal order, charges were re-arranged and presented to the tribunal on Jan 5.
He was produced before the tribunal on Jan 11 and sent to jail the same day. Since that evening, the 89-year old former Carmichael College professor has been kept at the prison cell of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for better treatment considering his delicate health.
A former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, arguably the largest Islamist organisation in the subcontinent, Azam is allegedly among the key people who pioneered anti-liberation efforts in 1971 colluding with the Pakistani military junta of that time.
He is widely perceived to have been among core group of right-wing supporters of the Pakistani Army, who came out strongly in support of a united Pakistan.
Ghulam Azam, then chief of Jamaat, was instrumental in setting up the infamous Peace Committee at the national level. The Razakars, an auxiliary force set up mainly to actively thwart the liberation forces, are said to have been mobilised through the Peace Committees across Bangladesh.
Among the most notorious vigilante militia are the Al Badr, whose membership is said to have been mainly dominated by the Jamaat’s student wing called the Islami Chhatra Sangha at that time.
The Al Badr is alleged to have spearheaded execution of the intellectual elites of Bangladesh just days before the victory on Dec 16, 1971.
Azam also spoke in favour of Pakistan to the Middle Eastern countries during the war, according to the prosecution.
He stayed in London for seven years after 1971 and returned to Bangladesh in 1978 during BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s rule. Having led Jamaat for long, Azam retired from active politics in 1999.
His party remains a key ally of the main opposition BNP. Two Jamaat leaders, also behind bars for war crimes charges, have even served as ministers during the BNP’s last tenure in government between 2001 and 2006, when Azam’s party was part of the ruling coalition.
Azam was indicted on five charges including incitement, conspiracy and abetment.