Prosecution witness says SQ Chy’s home seen as ‘main office’ of collaborators
A prosecution witness yesterday told the International Crimes Tribunal-1 that the activities of Razakars, Al Shams and Al Badr forces in Chittagong during the Liberation War indicated that their “main office” was Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s Goods Hill home in Chittagong.
During yesterday’s cross-examination of Mohammad Salimullah, the second witness against the war crimes accused BNP lawmaker, the witness dealt with questions from the defence with quips and calm composure. His overblown exchanges with defence counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena was the highlight for the audience at the court.
It is not unusual for a prosecution witness to be baffled and irritated in the face of defence questioning but on several occasion yesterday defence counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena appeared to have lost his cool. But the witness seemed rather collected.
During his third day of cross-examination, Salimullah at one stage even said he had heard Hena’s father was the convenor of a Shanti Committee.
Salimullah, a businessman from Chittagong, also said it was likely that Salauddin Quader and his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury took funds from the then East Pakistan government and gave them to the forces working against Bangladesh’s liberation.
The Al Shams, Al Badr, Shanti Committee and Razakar forces were formed during the Liberation War of 1971 to collaborate with the Pakistani occupation army and actively oppose the country’s independence.
Salauddin, an MP from Chittagong, is facing crimes against humanity charges on 23 counts at the tribunal.
At one point of the cross-examination yesterday, a seemingly crossed Hena said, “I have cross-examined many people in my life. But I haven’t seen such an impish person in my life!”
Several prosecutors were up on their feet protesting the remark.
However, the witness never lost poise. He repeatedly said, “It’s okay. Let him say. I’m quite enjoying it.”
To this, AKM Zaheer Ahmed, a judge at the three-member tribunal, said he has always seen that witnesses become agitated at the questioning of the defence lawyers. “But today it seems it’s you [defence counsel] who is getting agitated.”
Answering questions from Hena, the witness yesterday said he had not filed any case with the police or the court because he did not dare to.
At one point of the questioning, the defence counsel asked the witness whether advocate Zohurul Huq, father of counsel Hena himself, was the convenor of Rahmatganj Sangram committee.
The witness said he had heard that Zohurul Huq was actually the convenor of the Shanti Committee (collaborator force) in Cox’s Bazar.
“He [Zohurul Huq] had never been to Cox’s Bazar,” said Hena.
“Where is your grandfather’s [maternal] house then?” was the reply from the witness, who went on to add that Zohurul Huq’s in-laws were from Cox’s Bazar.
The three-member tribunal then told the witness that he was not allowed to ask the defence lawyer questions.
“You, an IA [intermediate equivalent to HSC) graduate, are quizzing me? Go pass [bachelor of] law and then you can question me,” said Ahsanul Haq Hena.
The 68-year-old witness in his testimony on Monday told the court how he was abducted on September 2, 1971, taken to Salauddin Quader’s Goods Hill family home, tortured and kept hostage in a garage where he almost died.
The defence lawyer asked Salimullah whether he had lied to his mother when leaving his home on the day he was abducted and tortured in 1971.
“Defiling my character won’t help the defence,” remarked the witness, adding that he was being insulted after making his deposition as a witness.
The remark drew an audible murmur from the defence bench.
“This is a very bad noise. If this happens again we will not allow anyone in the courtroom,” the tribunal chairman said.
Answering other questions, Salimullah said he had seen many beautiful girls in the building in which the Al Shams force had set up camp.
In his testimony, he had said that the Al Shams force used to pick up beautiful young women from different parts of Chittagong and bring them to the camp.
Yesterday he said he did not dare to speak to those girls at the camp.
At one point, defence counsel Ahsanul Haq told Salimullah that the “Khalifa”, who the witness had claimed to have been tortured along with him in Salauddin’s house, was called Prafulla Biswas, father of Ratna Biswas.
“Astagfirullah [I seek forgiveness from Allah]” said the 68-year-old witness. “That Khalifa was a Muslim. I can’t turn a Muslim Khalifa into a Hindu.”
Later the defence counsel told the witness that there were no dogs in Salauddin’s Goods Hill home in 1971.
“The house kept a number of dogs fearing the Muktibahini [pro-liberation force],” said Salimullah. The witness in his testimony had said during captivity in the house, he had woken up to dogs barking.
As the day’s proceedings were about to end, the defence counsel told the tribunal that he needed more time to wrap up his questioning.
The tribunal reminded the counsel to keep the time limitations of the court in mind.
To this, the witness said, “The trial of war criminals is taking place after 40 years. Give them some time. Let’s see if [they] can save [the war criminals].”
The cross-examination of the witness will resume today.
Meanwhile, Tribunal-1 asked the prosecution to submit a written response on May 29 to a prayer from Delawar Hossain Sayedee’s defence seeking review of an earlier decision of taking the statements of 15 witnesses given to the investigation officer as evidence against the Jamaat leader.
Prosecutor Haider Ali made a submission yesterday countering the defence application submitted on May 22. Abdur Razzaq, chief counsel for the Jamaat leaders, also argued against the prosecutors’ submission.
The tribunal adjourned the cross-examination of the final prosecution witness against Sayedee until May 26.