Skype row continues to dog ICT-1


The first war crimes tribunal continues to be dogged by a Skype controversy that led to the resignation of its founding Chairman Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq.

On Wednesday, the defence lawyers of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders — former chief Ghulam Azam, current chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and Executive Council Member Delwar Hossain Sayedee — and BNP MP Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, who are facing war crimes charges, managed to get adjournment until next week.

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, Ghulam Azam on five charges including incitement, complicity and abetment on May 13, and Nizami for 16 charges on May 28.

While the Jamaat defence sought for retrial, Chowdhury’s lawyers sought for removal of the conducting Prosecutor Zead-Al-Malum. Both parties prayed that the regular proceedings of their cases be held off until the disposal of their cases.

Justice Huq resigned on Dec 11 following publication of his alleged conversation over the internet with a Brussels-based academic. That his gmail account had been hacked and alleged Skype conversations recorded came to light on Dec 6 through an order of Justice Huq himself.

Wednesday’s proceedings were rife with direct and indirect references to the alleged Skype conversations and defence counsels proceeded to give their interpretation of what had supposedly transpired behind the scene.

The afternoon session saw chief Jamaat counsel Abdur Razzaq file his application for Ghulam Azam’s retrial. A senior Jamaat counsel Mizanul Islam had said in the morning that his team would file similar applications for Nizami and Sayedee as well.

The tribunal said that the applications be filed before Monday (Dec 24) with an understanding that the hearings would be held jointly.

Abdur Razzaq insisted that the trial proceedings of all three cases be held off till disposal of the retrial application. The tribunal, however, did not give a clear indication whether the prayer was granted, but it was understood that the tribunal would first at least hear the retrial application.

After hearing Abdur Razzaq, the tribunal asked Prosecutor Malum, who is also conducting Ghulam Azam’s case, how many days he would like to prepare for the hearing.

Malum replied, “We could do it right now.”

The prosecutor went on to say that there was no provision for retrial in the tribunal’s act.

Tribunal Chairman Justice A T M Fazle Kabir said, “But today is not fixed for hearing the application. Filing an application does not mean that it will be heard instantly.”

The tribunal then fixed Monday for hearing the application, at which time Salauddin Quader Chowdhury said he also had the same prayer, that his case proceedings be put off until disposal of his application.

He said a conspiracy between a judge, prosecutor and witness had been unearthed. The six-time MP from Chittagong said the court’s dignity was at stake. “The integrity of the judiciary is at stake when an outsider appears to be dictating a judge.”

Chowdhury said that the tribunal was all the more burdened with the responsibility to clear the judicial system of such embarrassment. “And it is not for just us but our children as well.”

He said that the tribunal owed it to the future generations, as they might look up to the tribunal knowing that this institution was above controversy.

Justice Kabir, who had heard him for several minutes, then said, “We have heard you. Now please be quiet.” He then asked Chowdhury’s lawyers to come up.

Ahsanul Huq, the BNP MP’s chief counsel, said he had the same prayer as that of Razzaq.

The tribunal reminded him that in the morning session he had merely sought removal of the prosecutor and prayed for time with his client for instructions and had not mentioned this before.

“But I have new instructions. My client tells me that that I must not proceed on this matter before disposal of the application.”

The lawyer said he would simply have to leave the employ of his client if he failed. “I will have to pack up and go.”

The counsel prayed that the tribunal fix a date for hearing and put off trial proceedings till then.

The tribunal fixed Sunday for hearing after a brief discussion among themselves.

Source: Bd News24