Dhaka, May 21 (bdnews24.com) — The red jeep left every morning and returned in the evening with political prisoners and beautiful girls packed inside.
It was 1971 – the year of Liberation War, and the red jeep of Good’s Hill, the hilltop residence of BNP lawmaker Salauddin Quader Chowdhury facing war crimes charges at the International Crimes Tribunal-1, would go around various parts of Chittagong everyday to find out those supporting freedom movement.
And those who using the jeep were members of Al-Shams, the paramilitary outfit which joined Pakistan Army and Al-Badr in 1971 to carry out mass killing of Bangladeshi people.
“The Chittagong chapter of Al-Shams was lead by Salauddin Quader Chowdhury under direct supervision of his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury,” recounted Mohammad Salimullah, the second witness in the case filed against Salauddin on war crimes charges, in his deposition that started on Monday.
ICT-1, set up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, indicted Salauddin on 23 counts for crimes against humanity, on Apr 4.
As Salimullah went on with his deposition for about two hours after the tribunal returned from its lunch recess at 2pm, Salauddin’s family members present there laughed continuously, as if all the witness was talking about was falsehood.
Salauddin also laughed several times.
Salimullah, who was a neighbour of Salauddin in 1971, gave a vivid description of the atrocities the family of Salauddin had allegedly committed to help Pakistani army retain control over the then East Pakistan and foil the War of Liberation for Bangladesh.
Salimullah recalled that political prisoners brought in the jeep were confined to the garages at the Good’s Hill, a place similar to Nazi concentration camp for torturing and killing people.
“Tipped by sources, the jeep travelled to places like Satkania, Boalkhali, Patia and Rangunia everyday for capturing those who wanted freedom,” said Salimullah mentioning several names who according to him were involved in the act. Salauddin’s younger brother Saifuddin Quader Chowdhury, Hamidul Kabir Chowdhury Khoka and Zafar formed part of his list.
They would set houses belonging to the minority Hindu community ablaze after looting valuables.
The girls brought in the jeep were taken to another neighbouring house of a man belonging to the minority Hindu community for nightlong repression and the most beautiful ones would be handed over to Pakistan military for good.
“I can still feel the shriek of those girls in my heart. I have no words to describe what all happened to them,” said Salimullah as he sobbed.
Salauddin’s family laughed aloud now.
The next morning, bodies of the girls would have been found dumped in the nearby river Karnaphuli, he continued.
Being witness to all of these, the 65-year-old man became Salauddin’s target, Salimullah said. The Al-Shams group had attacked the employees of his family press in the night of Sept 2, 1971 and picked two of them.
When he protested, he was caught and taken to one of the garages at the Good’s Hill along with one of his neighbours, a tailor.
They were tortured through the night. He had also heard people groaning in nearby garages. He had heard gunshots early morning as Salauddin’s family would practise shooting.
At one stage of deposition, defence counsel Ahsanul Haq got irritated with the witness’ refrain that he had been telling nothing but the truth.
“You know all of these too, but you are now working to save a war criminal,” Salimullah told Ahsanul Haq, who also hails from Chittagong.
Justice Nizamul Huq calmed down the two.
Salimullah cried as he recalled how he had offered his ‘last prayer’ after gaining sense in the garage, thinking he was definitely going to die.
Salimullah’s relatives, however, managed to release him the next morning.
“I did not want to be released without my two employees and the tailor neighbour, who had accompanied me to the confinement spontaneously. I never knew what happened to them. I believe they were killed and dumped,” he said.
Besides Jamaat-e-Islami executive council member Delwar Hossain Sayedee, whose case is the most advanced stage and Salauddin Quader, Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and assistant secretaries general Mohammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla have been standing trial on war crimes charges.