Dhaka, Nov 29 (bdnews24.com) — BNP MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury's petition to stay further proceedings at the war crimes tribunal will continue on Wednesday.
The proceedings began almost a half hour behind 10.30am schedule because the Chittagong MP was delayed on his way to the International Crimes Tribunal, trying war crimes of 1971 Liberation War.
Salahuddin Quader's contention is that the constitution of the tribunal violates the constitution and therefore even participation at a hearing would also constitute sedition by way of 'condoning' what he said was a conspiracy to subvert the constitution.
A former prime ministerial adviser on law, justice and parliamentary affairs, when BNP chief Khaleda Zia was in office, he represented himself at the hearing on Tuesday, saying that his lawyers had all 'run away'.
When Tribunal chairman Justice Nizamul Huq asked where his lawyers were, Salahuddin Quader replied from the dock, "You have scared them away."
The bench reserved for defence counsels remained conspicuously empty although a bunch of lawyers huddled around the dock towards the back of the courtroom as SQ Chowdhury continued with his quips throughout the proceedings.
He said he had not been allowed to submit a petition because he did not have a lawyer. "I was coerced into hiring a lawyer. I will represent myself."
Justice Huq said that Salahuddin Quader had hired 50 lawyers and wondered where they were and also noted that he saw some of them in the court. But the accused said 35 of them were waiting to get in but could not.
"You can't quite expect me to swim with my hands and feet all tied up, sir," returned Chowdhury.
Huq stiffly replied, "Mr Chowdhury, this is a court room not a fun place," and asked the accused, "How did we prevent them from coming?"
Salahuddin Quader replied that his lawyers were running for their lives with cases against them suggesting that the tribunal had sued some of his counsels. He was about to begin saying that 35 of his counsels were not allowed when Huq cut him short and said the tribunal would not allow 35 but 10 lawyers.
Huq read out the relevant section of the rules when Salahuddin Quader challenged this contention.
The tribunal then relented and asked Salahuddin Quader to begin arguing if he was ready. Salahuddin Quader said he was but said he had a small request before that. "I have not received a single certified copy of the orders in 11 months."
The tribunal chief replied that there was a procedure to secure those copies and one had to apply. "Since you have not been here often you would not know the formalities."
"Oh but I do want to come, it is you who don't ask me to come, sir!" Chowdhury continued amid muted laughter around the courtroom, "My heart bleeds for not being able to see you more often."
Chowdhury began reading petition only interspersed by frustration at the lawyers who had drafted it and his habitual antics that amused the entire court and even the judges who made little effort to conceal it.
At one point when Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was reading his petition, Justice Nizamul Huq strongly admonished the huddle of lawyers around Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and forbade them to assist the accused. "Maintain your dignities as lawyers," he told them.
The accused said that he only had his son in front of the dock to assist him. Justice Huq said, "That is quite alright. We know your son. We have seen him in court."
Chowdhury was at this time reading the part that dealt with the establishment of the tribunal and named its judges. He looked up and said that he did not know the other judges and therefore did not know which name went with which face.
Judge AKM Zaheer Ahmed said, "I am not from the High Court, if that answers your question."
Chowdhury replied that he had not meant any disrespect by that at all. He said that he thought Zaheer Ahmed was qualified enough to make a Supreme Court judge. "It is just that you lack political patronage."
At a latter point of his deliberation, Chowdhury became exasperated with how badly his petition was drafted and loudly interjected, "What have they written here!"
Addressing Huq who also had a copy of the petition in front of him, he said, "You see the language, sir? You insist on my engaging a lawyer, and you see what they have written? You be the judge!"
The entire bench could not help themselves from laughing as the court broke into a laughter as well at Chowdhury's show of desperation and helplessness.
These interjections continued till he concluded reading his petition and a supplementary to that petition.
When the Nizamul Huq told Chowdhury that he could sit down and read out the petition if he was tired, the accused said it, "It is beyond my taste sir."
"How can I sit and deliberate before you. It would look terrible. But thank you very much for the offer."
Justice Huq replied, "Mr Chowdhury, you cannot thank a judge. You can only say 'much obliged'."
Chowdhury apologised for his omission.
Once his petition was finished, Chodhury began with his submission. Which continued till after 1pm when the tribunal chief intervened and asked whether Chowdhury would be able to conclude within another 15 or 20 minutes. "In that case we might proceed."
Chowdhury replied, "But this is a serious matter dealing with the constitution, sir. It will take three to four hours."
When asked to continue at 2pm, Chowdhury said he was too tired and his physical condition would not allow it.
After a brief discussion among themselves, Justice Huq said the court would hear the rest of Chowdhury's submissions on Wednesday.
Salahuddin Quader, charged for committing offences like murder, rape, arson and loot during the 1971 Liberation War, was asked to name 10 lawyers to act on his behalf in the last hearing on Nov 24. He also filed the petition on the day.
The application stated that the tribunal's establishment contradicted the constitution. Supposedly, the tribunal even violated its own laws and rules. It also said that judges of High Court could not preside over the tribunal.
The prosecution claimed that the issues in Salahuddin Quader's petition had already been dealt with in the past and that the move was only to 'buy time'.
The BNP policymaker protested against the court taking into cognisance charges against him although he was not present at that time.
The prosecution filed an application for bringing formal charges against him on Nov 14. The tribunal admitted the charges against him three days later and had fixed Thursday for further directives.
Salahuddin Quader was shown arrested for war crimes charges on Dec 20, 2010 five days after his arrest.
The investigating agency dealing with the crimes against humanity during the nation's Independence War submitted a 119-page report with around 8,000-page data report against the former MP to the tribunal's chief prosecutor on Oct 3.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
This is a holding page. Detailed notes of this hearing to be up shortly. Here however is a good detailed story from bdnews24.com on this hearing.