Since the beginning of the trial, was crimes suspect Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior BNP standing committee member, took several different strategies to delay the proceedings and the tribunal cautioned him many times.
He always talked from the dock when the law does not permit an accused to speak a single word after the appointment of a counsel, said the prosecution.
After the long proceedings of almost two and a half years, the trial finally ended on Wednesday. The son of Convention Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, the BNP leader is facing 23 charges of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War. The verdict in the case against him would be given any day at the International Crimes Tribunal 1.
Salahuddin Quader was arrested in the early hours of December 16, 2010 and the tribunal on January 17 the next year ordered him to be jailed in connection with the case recorded with it. He denies all the charges made against him, claiming that he had been in Pakistan from March 29, 1971 to April 20, 1974.
On May 14 of last year, the accused wanted to cross examine the prosecution’s first witness Prof Anisuzzaman. But the tribunal did not allow him. Then the accused said: “I have the right to cross examine the witness, and I will.” The then chairman of tribunal 1, Justice Nizamul Huq, replied: “Not when your counsel is present at the court.” He also stated that his court had previously cautioned the accused over similar behaviour, “We caution the accused for the last time.”
This year, on January 31, Salahuddin Quader was able to conduct his own case after winning a legal battle against the prosecution and cross examined a female witness in camera. This was for the first time in the tribunal that an accused stood up to defend himself. On the day before, he first withdrew his appointed lawyer Ahsanul Haque and Fakhrul Islam, and then the tribunal appointed a state defence for him. But he insisted to fight for himself.
During the trial, Salahuddin Quader also demanded removal of prosecutor Zead-Al-Malum from the prosecution team for, what he said, ensuring fair trial as Malum had “tempered witness in collusion with a judge revealed through leaked Skype conversation.” The accused along with the defence counsel orchestrated many things like that. For continuing such acts, the tribunal even show caused defence counsel barrister Fakhrul.
Interestingly, whenever the parliament sessions began, the accused appealed for a bail to join the sessions as he received summons from the president all the time. The tribunal ordered every time as per the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, which states that a person accused of crimes against humanity cannot obtain bail. It asked Salahuddin Quader to contact the appropriate authorities in this regard. During the trial, the prosecution was also cautioned on several occasions. On June 21, the tribunal threatened to drive away the prosecution lawyers for passing comments during the cross examination of the fifth prosecution witness. Tribunal member Justice Jahangir Hossain cautioned prosecutor Malum verbally several times.
The warning came when prosecutor Altaf Hossain called the defence “beyadob” (‘insolent’) after the defence counsel asked the witness a personal question. The tribunal chief then addressed the chief prosecutor Ghulam Arif Tipoo, and said: “We will be compelled to ask your colleague to leave the courtroom if this happens again.”
While stating her arguments in the case, prosecutor Tureen Afroz said the defence counsel spent a considerable amount of time in his relentless “maniac attack” upon the academic and professional standing of the members of the prosecution team. The defence also dishonoured the senior lawyers of the Bar, barristers in general and even the prudence of the honourable judges of the Appellate Division on their appointment of the amicus curiae in the Quader Molla appeal case.
Prosecutor Malum told the Dhaka Tribune thursday that the defence was trying to hitch from the very beginning as they wanted to kill time. They thought by doing this they may delay the trial and if there is any change in power, they will benefit.
He added that the defence, in their lengthy argument, failed to make any systematic submission in order to cast doubt upon the charges brought by the prosecution.
“Finally we are happy to end the proceedings. It was a tough job for all of us,” Malum said. l