Tuesday, December 6, 2011

24 Nov 2011: SQ Chowdhury 'legal circus'

This is a holding page. Full details of this hearing will be up shortly. Until then here is article written by bdnews24.com:
Dhaka, Nov 24 (bdnews24.com)—Amid much chaos over entry restrictions, war crimes tribunal has deferred a hearing of BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury until Dec 29.

The senior opposition leader, who initially said he would be defending himself in the court, had filed an application seeking to freeze the proceedings against him charged with offences like murder, rape, arson and loot at the International Crimes Tribunal.

Salahuddin Quader said on Thursday that he had not been allowed to function over the last seven months. "I was compelled to engage a lawyer. I was coerced into hiring a counsel," he claimed on Thursday.

Fakhrul Islam, a defence counsel, said that the application stated that the tribunal's establishment contradicted the constitution. Supposedly, the tribunal even violated its own laws and rules.

The application also said that judges of High Court could not preside over the tribunal.

The prosecution's Zead-Al-Malum told the press later that the issues stated in the application have already been dealt with. "There have already been clear judgements in these matters and they are settled."

Another prosecution counsel, Ghulam Arieff Tipoo said, "These are nothing but ploys to buy more time and delay the proceedings."

He said already a lot of time has been wasted. "The law should be allowed to take its own course."

Salahuddin Quader protested strongly when the tribunal asked for the proceedings to begin, saying that his lawyers had not been allowed to enter the courtroom, which was overcrowded with lawyers, observers and law enforcers standing in the passage and on the two sides.

When the court said that it cannot wait for the defence lawyers to come, the BNP leader said, "But you have chased them away. Your police have chased them away."

At this, tribunal chairman, Justice Nizamul Huq told Fakhrul Islam, the only one of Salahuddin Quader's counsels officially engaged and present there, to go out and fetch the other lawyers the accused Chittagong MP had named — Jamiruddin Sircar, Rafiqul Islam Miah and Jainal Abedin.

Huq called for a five-minute recess after several minutes. But when the court convened over 10 minutes later, Fakhrul Islam was not present, nor were the other three.

Khandkar Mahbub Hossain, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and closely linked with BNP, spoke on behalf of the defence praying for more time from the tribunal.

A sudden surge of observers, relatives and lawyers led to a chaotic situation at the entrance to the International Crimes Tribunal housed in the Old High Court building adjacent to present Supreme Court building.

This followed a complaint at the onset of the hearing when Khandkar Mahbub addressed the court requesting permanent entry permits for the lawyers engaged in the case as well as some of the relatives of the accused.

Salahuddin Quader also addressed the court with its permission, pointing out that he had been held in prison for seven months during which time he had filed 23 petitions.

He also said he had not been able to look after his electorate in Chittagong. "My people have been deprived because I have not been able to perform simple tasks required of an MP like signing simple documents, which are all but formality for different government programmes like food for work."

Salahuddin Quader began stating that he was flattered at the efforts to put him on trial. He claimed that the 1973 act establishing the International Crimes Tribunal was amended to include the words 'any individual or group of individuals' keeping him in mind.

But since that contradicted the fundamental rights according to the constitution, the charter was also accordingly amended. "It is like you have a child on your hands but without any identity of the father. And now the entire exercise is to produce a father."

When he asked the court that it ensure his access to lawyers, the tribunal said that there were appropriate procedures for application which his lawyers would know and the paperwork should proceed according to the prescribed procedure.

The tribunal in its order also directed the defence counsel to present names of 10 lawyers who will represent him, and names and particulars of his relatives on Nov 29. But the defence was also ordered to keep in mind that 'the court could not accommodate too many lawyers and relatives due to space constraints'.

Salahuddin Quader kept up his loud protests saying, "But I need at least 25 lawyers, 10 are hardly going to be enough."

The BNP policymaker, also a former adviser to the prime minister during Khaleda Zia's tenure in office, protested against the court taking into cognisance charges against him although he was not present in the court.

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.

He was brought to the tribunal from Kashimpur Jail around 10am on Thursday.

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.
The case was adjourned til 29 November

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