The first war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh has ordered the prosecution to produce its first witness against Matiur Rahman Nizami on Jul 22, when the defence is expected to submit its list of defence witnesses and other documents that it intends to rely upon.
Set up to deal with crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal–1 had indicted the Jamaat chief on May 29 for 16 charges.
Nizami was held responsible for his role as head of Jamaat’s student wing in 1971 and in turn heading the anti-liberation vigilante militia group called Al Badr, which is said to have been run mostly by Jamaat’s student cadres.
Charges against Nizami
Nizami has been held responsible for killing a man named Kasimuddin, a freedom fighter, in June of 1971 at Pabna in the first charge. Nizami guided the Pakistan Army personnel who had arrested Kasimuddin from his house before torturing and shooting him dead in his presence.
According to the second charge, on May 10, 1971 Nizami invited residents of Baushbari village to a gathering on Ruposhi High School premises at Pabna to announce that Pakistan Army was due to ensure peace.
The troops arrived on May 14 and killed 450 people of Baushbari and Demra villages at Sathia in Pabna. They also raped 30 to 40 women and forced many others to leave the country with assistance from Nizami and his associates.
The third of the 16 counts of charges stated that Nizami regularly visited physical training centre at Mohammadpur, where auxiliary forces abetting the Pakistan Army were trained to unleash the reign of terror during the war and intellectuals were taken there blindfolded and killed, and women were raped.
The charge said Nizami visited the place for hatching conspiracy to commit war crimes and his complicity with the crimes committed there had been found.
The fourth charge is about Pakistan Army surrounding the house of a Hindu man at Karamja village in Pabna on May 8, 1971, killing several men and raping three women. Razakars accompanying the army looted the house after the murders.
The next charge describes killing of 21 unarmed civilians of Arpara and Bhuter Bari villages on Apr 16, 1971, aided by Nizami and his associates. Guided by the accused, the Pakistan Army raided the house of freedom fighter Abdul Awal at Sathia in Nov, 1971, killing 30 persons, said the sixth charge.
After the army left, Razakars led by Nizami captured another 22 people and killed them by the bank of Ichhamoti River.
The seventh charge is about killing a father to glean information about his freedom fighter son in Pabna on Dec 3, 1971.
Nizami and Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed visited MP Hostel in the capital on Aug 30, 1971, when Nizami ordered the murder of several youths including Rumi, son of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam, said the eighth charge.
The next charge describes shooting of 70 people and torching of 72 houses at Brishalika village of Bera in Pabna on Dec 12, 1971, by Pakistan troops who were tipped off by Nizami.
Local Razakars destroyed the house of Anil Chandra Kundu at Sonatola in Sathia at the beginning of war as the man was said to have joined the war, said the tenth charge.
The 11th charge puts Nizami at the scene of a meeting organised by ICS unit of Chittagong in Aug, 1971 where he incited the Muslims. “Pakistan is the house of Allah…there is no person on earth who can destroy Pakistan,” Nizami said in his address.
The next charge is his inciting Muslims to go after freedom fighters on Aug 22, 1971 in a meeting held at Islamic Academy Hall. Addressing the meeting, Nizami had urged pious people to take up arms against the enemies of Pakistan.
The 13th charge is also about inciting Muslims by addressing a meeting on Sept 8, 1971 marking the Defence Day of Pakistan.
Nizami misinterpreted two verses of Surah Tauba of the Qur’an, for inciting a gathering of Razakars at a meeting at the Jessore district headquarters on Sept 10,1971, said the 14th charge.
The next charge describes Nizami as conspirator as he used to visit Sathia Razakar camp regularly during the war. The last charge is about his orchestrating and executing the killing of intellectuals on Dec 14, 1971.