The hearing started with the chairman asking Tajul Islam, the defence prosecutor, why the defence were again seeking an adjournment, and telling him that in any case there was an outstanding application that the tribunal has not yet ruled on.
He said that after the hearing today the court will next sit on 4 September when the defence will be able to present their argument.
Tajul Islam, the defence lawyer asked how the charge hearing could go on, if the defence was not prepared? They had only just received 38 additional witness statements and had not been able to seek instruction from the client.
The tribunal chairman again told the Islam that the defence would get their time and everything will go on according to the rules. ‘So, you should sit down, listen to their arguments and take notes.’
Mr. Islam replied that this also amounted to taking part in the proceedings. ‘Without knowing about the additional documents the Defence was not in a position to take part in the hearing,’ he said. He then said, ‘My lord, we want to humbly submit that the prosecution is deliberately trying to obstruct a fair trial. They have submitted illegible documents, which they are using as vital evidences such as statement of witnesses. They repeatedly asked for more and more time without citing any good reasons. I would say they did it on purpose. The prosecution impeded fair trial by taking time deliberately.’
The tribunal chairman replied, ‘Look Mr Tajul, I could say so many things now but I’m not going to. I would just ask you to sit down and listen to their argument. About the illegible documents, we passed the order saying that illegible documents will not be considered as evidence by the Tribunal. After this order how can there be any question about illegible documents? Nothing more is required. So, you sit down, take notes on what they submit and prepare yourself. But please don’t waste time by submitting adjournment petitions.
Islam said, 'My lord, we got the copy of witness statement only yesterday at 3pm. It is not possible to go through this overnight. We will be prejudiced if we take part in the charge hearing now. Without reading the documents thoroughly how can we take notes? Moreover there are illegible documents. You are asking us to do something that is impossible.
The tribunal chairman asked Islam to please sit down and let the prosecution place their arguments.
Islam then said that they could not take part in the hearing, and all the defence lawyers get up from seats and about to leave.
The Tribunal chairman said, ‘What’s going on? Please take your seats. Sit there, listen to their arguments and take notes.’
Islam responded, ‘My lord, my client doesn’t even know what the allegations are. There is no way that we can take part in the proceedings.’
The tribunal chairman said, ‘Mr Tajul, you have said too much. You say something inside the court, and outside you say something else. It’s the modern age, we get all the information, we read stuff on the internet, and we hear and know all the things you said.’ You have said more that what you needed to say. You have crossed your line.’
Islam responded by saying that what he says outside the court is the same as what he says inside. ‘I never say anything other than that. I can’t do if anything if the newspaper misquotes me. Furthermore, I didn’t even have time to look at the newspaper these days. But I never say something else outside the court that doesn’t happen inside the court.’
‘My lord, the prosecution only supplied us the documents yesterday that they were supposed to submit on 19 July 2011. I would say that they are being indulged as they are getting time whenever they want and they are getting away with all the anomalies. Where is the justice? How can it be possible for us to prepare for the charge hearing overnight where there are 68 witness’ statements to read through? I haven’t heard any cases like this where the defence has to prepare and take part in the charge hearing the next day after getting statement of witnesses. The prosecution, by not submitting those witness statements earlier, has violated court orders, the act and the rules. But they are getting away with it pretty easily.'
The chairman said, ‘Look, we are going to take tough stance with the prosecution. But please sit down and take part. The charge hearing has started yesterday, you were there too. You can submit your petition on 04 September 2011.’
Islam said, ‘My lord, during Eid vacation it is not possible for us to go through all those documents. I’m not even sure we can get back to Dhaka on 4 September. You have to consider that although we are lawyers, at the same time we are human beings.’
The chairman again asked Islam to please sit down and take notes.
Islam said, ‘My lord we have to say we can’t take part in the charge hearing like this.’
The tribunal chairman asked the Chief prosecutor whether he was ready, and was told that he was.
The chairman then said, ‘First of all, I also caution your side for the mistake that you made. Your side is making mistakes over and over again. Be careful about these things.’
The prosecutor said that they would be careful so that this doesn’t happen again. ‘It was an inadvertent mistake’
The chairman said, ‘Allah has bestowed us with a great responsibility and we want carry out this responsibility and do it fairly. We are for both sides. But it is us who are being questioned for the mistakes your side is making.’
The prosecutor said, ‘My lord, this will not happen again.’ He then asked Haider Ali to start. There was a short conversation between the two and the chief prosecutor then said, ‘We also have no objection if you consider the adjournment petition, if this is acceptable to your lordship.’
The tribunal then passed the order.
This is an application for adjournment filed by the defence. Mr Tajul Islam, learned counsel, appearing for the accused petitioner, submitted that they have received part of the witness statements from the prosecution just yesterday. As such they couldn’t peruse the documents in this short time. He also submitted that the defence is not prepared to take part in the hearing. Learned chief prosecutor, appearing for the prosecution, does not oppose this prayer for adjournment of the charge hearing. Considering their submission we adjourn the hearing until 04/09/2011. The court will sit for further hearing of charges on the day.Defence press briefing with Tajul Islam
Journo: (Jokingly) Remember to say exactly what you said inside the courtroom.
Tajul Islam: Now I’m sort of nervous to say anything in front you! You all know that the charge hearing was adjourned yesterday. It was found by the court yesterday that the prosecution did not submit part of some documents. The Tribunal ordered prosecution to submit the rest of the documents yesterday. We received those copies yesterday at 3pm from the prosecution. Obviously, we couldn’t prepare ourselves on this. The documents consist of almost 70 pages and there is statement of 38 new witnesses. The earlier copy that we received had statements from 30 witnesses and we received extra 38 witness statement yesterday. Naturally it was impossible for us to read those extra 38 statements meticulously. So, we prayed for further time today. But the Tribunal, without passing any order on our petition, told us to sit down there and listen to prosecution’s argument. We argued that if prosecution is allowed to go on that means that the charge hearing is continuing. If one side is allowed to place their argument having another side completely unprepared that cannot be called justice. In spite of that the Tribunal asked the prosecution to go on. At this stage, the chief prosecutor said if the tribunal allows the time-extension petition they won’t have any objection against it. After his statement, the tribunal said that they are allowing our petition for more time and the next date for charge hearing is fixed on 4 September 2011.
Journo: Is this enough for you? Would you take part in the hearing that day?
Tajul – Of course you all understand that we just received the documents. The Eid vacation will start very soon. We have to come back and sit for the charge hearing just one day after the vacation will have ended. In light of the present socio-economic scenario in Bangladesh, all of us who reside in Dhaka go to our village or home town to celebrate Eid with our parents, family and relatives. You all also know the condition of the highways and roads very well. So you can tell me well about how realistic it is or is not for us to get back on the 4th September in Dhaka. Under the prevailing circumstances I wouldn’t be surprised if we can’t even reach Dhaka on the day. But yet the Tribunal set the date and of course, the order of the Tribunal is to be complied with. If we face any problem, we will come and explain that to the Tribunal. We are not sure if we can even be physically present and say something. Let us see what happens, time will say.
Journo: If you can come, then...
Tajul – It depends on if we can fully prepare in the meantime. If we can’t, obviously we will ask for more time that day.
Journo: Tell us about the documents.
Tajul – The prosecution provided us the first set of documents on 27 July 2011 that they were supposed to submit on 19 July 2011. In those documents 97 pages were illegible. We applied for new set of documents, and when we got those, 72 pages were still unreadable. Finally, on 16 August we got the first chance to show those documents to our client. Then the charge hearing started. We said it time and again that if we are not given adequate time, it is impossible for the defence to prepare for such a case like this. It will be impossible for us to ensure justice for the client under these circumstances. For this reason, we appealed for reasonable time to the court, especially for the documents supplied to us yesterday containing 38 new witness statements. It is not possible to finish reading these documents and prepare for argument overnight. This trial is not something that has to be rushed. So, we said if this reasonable time is not allowed, we are unable to take part in the hearing and we will not participate. We said all these things to the court. You know, we are not supercomputers that we can go beyond our human limitation and magically prepare the arguments only after getting them on yesterday at 3pm. So, we will not be able to participate in the hearing if we don’t get at least the logical time that is needed as a human.
Journo: Are you apprehensive about getting justice?
Tajul – It is hard to comment on this now right away. If we don’t get what is reasonable you will see what will understandably follow. But at this moment it is hard to comment on this.