Friday, November 16, 2012

Tribunal prosecution and registrar abduction denial

The tribunal prosecution and registrar deny that there was any abduction of a witness as alleged by the defense; that the whole incident has been made up. This posting looks at what they have said and provides some commentary.

On 8 November, three days after the alleged abduction, the prosecution held a press conference. [To see a translation the whole of this statement click here]. Below is a translated extract of the relevant section of that statement relating to their denial.
Recently whilst arguing a certain case, in relation to a witness who is not the defense witness and whose family has lodged a G.D against the defence, on 5 November they made a so-called drama of kidnapping that witness in the gate of Tribunal and by this issue some Defense Counsel of Tribunal-1 have tried to create a confused situation in Tribunal, then Tribunal has taken proper steps against them according to the law in 6 November. 
Dear journalist friends, When the defense witnesses were giving their statement and Prosecution were cross-examining them in the case of Delawar Hossain Saydee, most of the Defense Witnesses said that how, with whom and whose assistance, they have come to give testimony in the Tribunal. Prosecution team can say strongly that no Prosecution Witness told in their statement or in the time of cross-examination that they came with Prosecution or his car to give testimony in the Tribunal. All the people of the country have known by you that last 5 November Jamaat Islami and Islami Chatra Shibir have operated destructive activities, attacking upon police, hijacking the arms of police, burning and breaking the law and order by causing damage to human life and goods for dismissing the trial proceeding and releasing their leaders. That certain day was not fixed for that witness and it is created question in the mind of all about taking steps for bringing Sukhranjan Bali by the car of Defense Counsel Mizanul Islam in the Tribunal as Defense Witness. That Sukhranjan Bali was missing from his area in last four months and a G.D was lodged by his family about him being missing and Defense Counsel Mizanul Islam has cross-examined the Prosecution Witness about this G.D, then as a lawyer it was his responsibility to inform law enforcing body and present him in the Tribunal by the help of them when he got Sukhranjan Bali but he did not do that, so it is amazing, mysterious, unbelievable and for special purpose, for that their claiming of kidnapping Sukhranjan Bali is not acceptable. It has been proved to every rational and sensible people of the country that unacceptable drama of Defense Counsel about kidnapping witness and destructive activities of Jamaat-e-Islami and Chatra Shibir in outside the Tribunal, are the part of trying to dismiss the Tribunal and releasing their leader unlawfully by postponing trial proceeding and Defense Counsels will not avoid the responsibility of those destructive activities.
There are a number of things to note about this statement.

1. The prosecutor refers to the 5th November as not having been a day for examining a witness, suggesting it was odd for the defense on that day to have brought a witness.

However, whilst it is true that on the 5th there was no witness examination planned, the prosecution statement is misleading as it does not consider the sequence of events in the two weeks prior to the 5th November.

On 21 October, the defense lawyers had made an application asking that the court issue a summons for Bali to attend as a witness in court. The Tribunal refused to do this saying it was unto the defense to bring any witness to court it wishes to. [The tribunal's refusal to assist the defense in bringing Bali, previously a prosecution witness, in court should be noted and will be subject to a separate posting].

Two days later on 23 October, the tribunal closed the defense case as they could not bring any more witnesses without a gap. The tribunal then made 5 November as the date for the prosecution to start its closing arguments. On 30 October, before closing arguments the defense filed an application to bring Bali as a witness to the tribunal even though the defense case had been closed. The tribunal said that this application would be heard on the 4th November (which happened to be the day before the alleged abduction.)

On that day, the day before closing argument, the defense claim that they brought Bali to court and he spent most of the day in the defense room in the court building. In the morning the tribunal said that it would hear the application at 2pm. However, at 2pm the tribunal did not hear the application.

Therefore, in order for the defense to have any chance for Bali to be heard as a witness before closing arguments, they had to bring him to the court on the 5th morning. It was their last opportunity. So, in fact, contrary to the prosecution statement it made perfect sense for Bali to have been brought to the tribunal on the 5th.

2. The statement then goes onto criticize the defense for not having told the tribunal about the availability of the witness - but that in effect is exactly what the defense did by asking, on 21 October, for the tribunal to issue a summons. And, by not agreeing to issue a summons the tribunal did not seem that interested in ensuring that the witness came to court. Moreover if the prosecution was so keen for this to happen - now that their original witness had supposedly come back to his house, then it should have supported the defense in its application to get a summons. However, it did not do this

3. The prosecution refer to a GD diary. This appears from the prosecution statement to be concerned about Bali being missing. It does not, apparently, suggest that he was being intimidated by the defense. In addition, in it earlier application to allow Bali's statement supposedly given to the investigation officer to be admitted as evidence, the prosecution only suggested that he was missing, and not being intimidated.

The tribunal registrar also denies that any incident took place. In an interview with me on Wednesday 14 November, the Tribunal registrar AKM Nasiruddin Ahmed, told me 'There was no such incident' in the tribunal.

Referring to the request by the tribunal to look into what happened, he said that he did not undertake 'a formal inquiry ... We did not inquire into the incident ... We were not expected to undertake an enquiry'. He said that he called the deputy commissioner, and the deputy additional commissioner and talked to them. 'We did not leave the office.' About what he found, he said, 'there was no mess, no gathering, no hassling, none reported that something had happened. We called all the concerned police officer, but they said that there was no such incident.'

He then said that the Deputy Registrar was present when it happened.

The deputy registrar, Mr Mesbah then said at some point in the morning after ten, he was asked by the registrar to look around to see if everything was alright at the gate and around the place. He want out of the building and at that time he saw Mizanul Islam's car parked outside the tribunal building. He then went to the tribunal gate and saw Mizanul Islam's junior Md Hasanul Banna Sohag there. 'He told me that he was unable to enter the tribunal and I then asked the police to let him in'. He said that there was another lawyer there but he was not allowed in as he was the lawyer relating to the case of Golam Azam and that case was not fixed for that day.

He then goes onto say. 'Mr Sohag made no complaint to me about anything having happened. And notone there at the gate complained.' He said that there were no people in civil dress

He said that Tajul Islam only came and had an argument with the police guards at the gate, much later on.

He claimed that the whole abduction allegation was an 'afterthought'. He said that he told Hannan, the head of the investigation agency what had happened at the time.

The statement by the Deputy Registrar could be important - depending on the time he actually went to the gate where it is alleged that Bali was initially taken by plain clothes policemen. He says that he went there around the time that Mizanul Islam's car was parked outside the court. If that was the case, that could suggest it was close to the time when the plain clothes police man are alleged to have started to abduct Bali and walked him to the vehicle at the other tribunal gate, with Sohag following. [This is because, according to the defense lawyers, the witness and three people (including Sohag) got out of Mizanul Islam's car and then the can drove into the tribunal, and it takes barely ten second to arrive from the tribunal gate to the tribunal entrance where the Deputy Registrar is aguing that the car was located when he went out to go to the tribunal gate.] So if the registrar saw Sohag whilst Mizanul Islam's car remained parked at the tribunal entrance, then that would appear to suggest that he saw Sohag almost immediately after he got out of Mizanul Islam's car and this in turn would suggest that the incident did not take place as has been suggested by the defense lawyers and other witnesses.

The Deputy Registrar's evidence is also notable for suggesting that Sohag did not complain about the incident when they saw each other at the gate

Advocate Sohag says that the Deputy Registrar is right in most of his details - apart from his timing. He says that they did see each other at the gate, but this was after the abduction incident had taken place. He said that he had already got out of the car, followed his witness who was being taken by plain clothes policemen, seen him being put in the car, and then walked back to the front tribunal gate.

He then says that when he got to the gate, the defense lawyer Tajul Islam came out from the tribunal to the front gate, with TV cameras following him and when he got to the gate they both started haranguing the police at the gate for what happened. [He says that Tajul knew about what happened as he had managed to send a message to some lawyers in the tribunal]. After the argument with the police at the gate, Tajul then left to go into the tribunal but, Sohag said, that the police at the gate would still not let him in. It was at this point that Sohag saw the Deputy Registrar and asked for his help. Sohag confirmed the the conversation that took place with the deputy register about the other lawyer not being allowed in. The only discrepancy appears to be the timing.

The claim that the deputy registrar came later to the gate - and not when Sohag and the others got out of car - is backed up by Tajul Islam himself, who says that when he came back into the tribunal from arguing the police, he went straight into the registrar's office to tell the registrar what happened and at that time he passed the deputy registrar who seemed to be on his way out.

When Sohag was asked why he did not tell the deputy registrar that there had been an incident of abduction at the gate when he saw him, Sohad said that at that particular moment he was just desperate to get into the tribunal and speak to his senior Mizanul Islam. The police were preventing him from getting him, and he just needed the registrar to help him through the gate, he said. He did not want an argument with him.

Read the next post to find out how certain elements of the story could be confirmed.

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