Jul 9th, 2012
Dhaka, Jul 9 (bdnews24.com) — The first war crimes tribunal has adjourned Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami’s trial until Jul 15 considering that he was absent on Monday.
Set up to try crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal – 1 indicted the Jamaat chief on 16 counts on May 28.
His trial was set to commence on Monday with the prosecution reading out the opening statement followed by witness examination. However, defence counsel Tajul Islam pointed out that the accused had a right to be present in the court and hear the opening statement as it was a crucial part of the trial.
Nizami had been taken to Chittagong, with the tribunal’s permission, where he is an accused in the sensational 10-truck arms haul.
The tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammad Nizamul Huq, said he would not have allowed Nizami to be taken to away if he knew that the defence would take such a position.
Tajul Islam also prayed for four weeks’ time to submit the list of defence witnesses and documents since the defence had not been able to prepare them satisfactorily.
The tribunal chairman noted that in previous cases of similar applications that tribunal had directed the prosecution to continue with their opening statement while the defence had been given extra time to prepare their documents and witness list. “But the situation is a bit different today,” said Justice Huq noting that the accused was not present and that the defence counsel had submitted that Nizami had a right to be present at the commencement of his trial.
Thus, the order stated that the court was inclined to adjourn the matter until next Sunday — Jul 15. The tribunal directed the defence to submit the documents and its witness list by Jul 22. “And in default, the trial shall continue without them,” ordered the tribunal chief with finality.
Nizami in ICT
Nizami headed Jamaat’s student wing called Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971. Later that year, he was replaced by current number two, Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, also behind bars on war crimes charges.
Nizami is also said to have headed the Al Badr which had a lead role in many of the atrocities during 1971.
The Islamist party’s members and student cadres are said to have been instrumental in mobilising fronts like the Razakars and Al Badr that actively engaged against the freedom fighters to thwart the liberation forces.
Those fronts were notorious for ruthlessly trying to subdue resistance against Pakistani occupation forces and collaboration with the Pakistani army.
It is through these militia fronts that Nizami is said to have masterminded the murder of pro-liberation intellectuals of Bangladesh, days before the Pakistani occupation army surrendered on Dec 16, 1971.