Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Dec 2011: Sayedee witness one

The taking of testimony from witness no 1 started after the tribunal heard a number of applications from the defence (all rejected). This is dealt with in a separate posting.

Before the first witness took the stand, the chairman said two things. First that details of father, place of residence and other such details will not be made public, and there should be no questioning about these. Second that the witness statements will be transcribed, and as they are typed out they can be seen on computers in front of the judges, the defence lawyers and prosecutors and the accused. Tribunal said that they are trying to do audio recording as well but that it was not ready. Following a query from the defence lawyer, the tribunal said that a certified copy of what was stated by the witness will be given, hopefully, by the end of each day.

It should be noted that this is I think the first time any court in Bangladesh has taken steps to organise an official record of proceedings in this manner. Since the statements are given slowly (so that transcription can take place) it is possible to take accurate notes of what is stated in court. Here is the testimony of witness number two

Below is an unofficial translation of witness no.1 .
I am Md Mahbubul Alam Howlader freedom fighter. I am 60 years old. My religion is Islam and my work includes business and activities with Muktijodhdha Command. I resided at my own house in 1971. The speech given by Bangabondhu on March 7, “Today’s struggle is struggle for our freedom; today’s struggle is struggle for our independence. Combat the enemy with whatever we have. [Nizamul Haque: Not we, you]

On hearing Bangabondhu’s speech, freedom loving Bengalis from all across Bangladesh started preparing for the liberation war. Pakistani Occupying Forces had started killing and pillaging in the name of Operation Searchlight. They killed lakhs of people who believed in independence or were Hindus. Pakistani Occupying Forces arrested Bangabondhu on March 25. Before his arrest, Bangabondhu said that Bangladesh is an independent country from today. After hearing that, students and masses started preparing for the liberation war. Many went to India for training and many others started collecting arms locally through (for?) guerrilla training. They kept resisting the Pakistani Occupying Forces and attacked and killed Pakistani forces by carrying out guerrilla operations.

Pakistani Occupying Forces became desperate and formed the Peace Committee along with anti-independence party Jamaat-e-Islami khulna’s ATM Yusuf, Pirojpur’s Khan Md Afzal and other associate forces. Peace Committee had ordered Jamaat-e-Islami activists to kill freedom fighters and people supporting independence. Later on, the Peace Committee of Parerhat was formed whose members included Sekander Ali Shikder, Danesh Molla, Mosleuddin Maulana, Azhar Ali Talukder, Delwar Hossain now called Sayedee, Mohsen, Abdul Karim, Habibur Rahman Munshi, Sobhan Maulana and Hakim Karee. Local members of Peace Committee, Maulana Mosleuddin, Delwar Hossain now called Sayedee, Mohsen, Habibur Rahman Munshi, Momin Howlader, Sobhan Maulana, Hakim Karee and many other Madrasa students in association with organisations working against liberation formed associate forces
There was a short interlude when the defence lawyers thought that the witness had a piece of paper in his hand. Witness then continued.
Associate force’s Mosleuddin... associate Razakar force [word ‘Razaker’ added by chairman] was formed. Habibur Rahman Munshi, Mosleuddin, Hakim Karee and many other Madrasa students in association with people against liberation formed Razakar forces as an associate wing of Pakistani Occupying Army. [Nizamul Haque: You have repeated this]

On the first week of May, Pakistani Military arrived at Pirojpur. On May 7, I was at home in the morning, when I heard from people that Pakistani Military is coming towards Parerhat, and that Peace Committee members of Parerhat are waiting at the local rickshaw stand to welcome the occupying forces. I went to Parerhat rickshaw stand and started observing them secretly. 52 soldiers of Pakistani Military arrived on 26 rickshaws. Peace Committee members greeted them. Sayedee started speaking to them since he knew Urdu. He led them towards the Bazaar and pointed out houses and shops of members of Hindu community, Awami League and people who supported liberation. Captain Ejaz gave order to loot. Plunder started. Noticing that the situation was worsening, I moved myself to a distance. Later on I came to know that 30-35 houses and shops were attacked and the loot was distributed under Sayedee’s guidance. Parerhat’s rich businessman Makhan Shaha had an iron strongbox buried under his house, in which 22 seers of gold and silver were found. Upon finding such riches in one place, Captain Ejaz renamed Parerhat as Sonar Parerhat.

Sayedee had led a loot attack on Madan Shaha’s shop, close to Parerhat. After breaking into the shop, he’d taken (booty) to his in-laws place, north to the ditch (Khal). With loots and gold, totalling Tk 15 lakh, (they/he) formed a treasury called ‘Panch Tahbil’. As ... Shaha, Tarokchondro Shaha, Benimadhab Shaha had left for India, they plundered their houses under Sayedee’s leadership. Sayedee had himself traded the loots of ‘Panch Tahbil at Nogorbashi Shaha’s home. Likewise Sayedee had robbed many people’s wealth and built houses in Khulna and Dhaka for himself.

He’d plundered and set fire on Manik Poshari and his (Manik’s) brother’s properties at Baduria’s Chithulia village. They also ransacked freedom fighter Selim Khan’s house. Despite Sekander Shikder and Danesh Molla being leaders too, Delwar Hossain Sayedee had grown an intimate relationship with Captain Ejaz because of his Urdu speaking skill.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee was a student of Alem class of Shorshina Madrasa, but had been expelled due to his involvement in student politics of Jamaat-e-Islami.

On 7th May, after the incidence (of pillage), Peace Committee along with Pakistani Occupying Forces camped at Bagerhat Rajlaxmi School.

He (Sayedee) had looted Madan Shaha’s house and shop and kept the war booty at his in-laws place. After liberation, freedom fighters, including me, had retrieved these items and returned them back to Madan Shaha. [Nizamul Haque corrects and repeats the previous sentence for typists, adding Sayedee in place of ‘he’.]

I was in charge of collecting intelligence information as a spy of Sundarban Muktijodhddha camp. Subsector commander of sector-9, Major Ziauddin Ahmed and A.K.M. Alauddin Ahmed had assigned me with this task.

Razakar and Peace Committee had raped, looted, committed arson attacks and shot to death members of Hindu community of Pirojpur district. Women were handed over to be raped by the Pakistani Occupying Army. As a spy, I observed these crimes which happened across the whole district, and passed news on to Sundarban Muktijodhddha camp. Before 7th May, Pakistani Occupying Forces had set a Razakar camp at Fakir Dash’s building in Parerhat.
Short interruption as Tajul Islam intervenes and wants to check whether the witness is hiding any written copy of his statement. Tajul takes a look around and comes back to his seat.
On June 2, I was at home in the morning. Witness Khalilur Rahman came to my house during very early hours and informed upstairs that, “We are making list of you, Awami League activists and people at your place who are pro-independence. Peace Committee members and Razakars will come here to get hold of them.” Me and those I’d sheltered, Awami League activists and freedom fighters
There was a short interruption when Tajul Islam asked the chairman not to make any corrections to the statement and that whatever the witness was saying should be recorded as it is. Nizamul Haque said 'Continue'.
I took them to a far-off place which was safer. (Later) I came to know from others that around 10 am, Parerhat’s Peace Committee and Razakar forces, namely Danesh Ali Molla, Sekander Shikder, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Mohin Howlader, Hakim Karee, Habibur Rahman Munshi and many other unknown Razakers had led Pakistani Occupying Forces to attack the Hindu locality of Umedpur village, which was next to my home.

They looted and burnt down 25-30 houses of many people, namely Bisha Bali, Suku Bali and …..Mondol. The destruction amounted to around TK 15 lakh. Bisha Bali being sick was caught, strapped to a coconut tree and beaten up. Delwar Hossain Sayedee had ordered, “Now that we have him, shoot him.” One Razakar shot and killed Bisha Bali. When I came to know about the attack on Hindu community a bit earlier, I sneaked into the area, entering from its south border. I arrived at a nearby street, and seeing others next to a bush on the south end, I also stayed there. When he (Bisha Bali) was shot, me, Mahtab, Altaf, Latif Howlader, and others who were there ran away and hid ourselves at a far-off place.

Around 12 am, I noticed that a few Razakars and Peace Committee members were leaving the Hindu locality and going towards my home. They entered my house and pressured my brother Abdul Majid to bring me, Awami League activists and freedom fighters before them (Razakars). As my brother had declined to comply, they tortured him. At one point, they looted 10 bhori of gold jewelleries, Tk 20,000 from the almirah and 2 bhori of gold jewelleries from my mother’s room. The loot was worth Tk 3 lakh and the damage to the furniture they had broken amounted to Tk 30,000. They’d left the place afterwards.

In the past, there was no opportunity to try the war criminals- looters, rapists and murderers who’d killed lakhs of people in 1971. The present government had announced before the election that they will organise trial of war crimes once they come to power. Since the citizens of this country wanted this trial to happen, they’d voted in favour of this government.

I filed a war crime case before Pirojpur court. Court ordered the OC of Indurkani Police Station to lodge the complaint. On 9/9/2009, the case was taken up by police. IO (investigation officer) of the case was SI Jafar Ali Howlader. The IO had started investigation procedure of this case, which however stopped after sometime. I came to know from radio and TV that the international war crimes tribunal has been formed in the country, and investigation officers of the tribunal will themselves investigate. With hope of receiving justice, I submitted my appeal to the head of the war crimes tribunal on 20/9/2010. I seek justice. This is my statement.
[In the middle of his statement, just after the lunch adjournment the prosecutor, Haider Ali asked that three people should be removed from the room namely (1) Naser Mollik (Sayedee’s nephew), (2) Mr. Saleh (Sayedee’s Nephew), (3) Mostofa Sayedee (Sayedee’s younger brother). He said that the witness was scared to talk in front of these persons.

The chairman called the three persons who stood up and asked them whether they had permission to enter the tribunal. They all said that they got entry passes from the office of the tribunal. The deputy registrar was called and he said that he had no knowledge of who had got a pass or not. The chairman asked them to leave the room. Sayedee asked to speak and said that these men are all his relatives and why could they not stay in the court room.]

After the statement was given there was a process of affirming certain evidence that had been given to the court.

Haider Ali: Here’s the letter you’d given to the investigating body. Volume 1(1)…

Justice Zaheer: Whatever you have given, is it with us too? You have to say that I am presenting volume 1, section 1 before the court.

Hyder Ali: I can say exhibit 1/1, 1/2, 1/3.

Nizamul Haque: That’s better.

Haider Ali directs witness to read out from the document he was holding.

Mahbubul Alam (witness): after looting the houses

Nizamul Haque: What’s the evidence? Have to record…

Mahbubul Alam (witness): The date and time of seizure: 18/8/2010, 11am. Place of seize, (these evidence) have been seized from him: Chithulia village; police station and district Pirojpur. Alamgir Poshari (65); father: Shahiduddin Poshari (ex); Description of seized items: two corrugated tins, very old with marks of burn. This is the list of seizure. Secondly, here’s my signature, 2/01.

This is another list of seizure. The date and time of seizure: 18 August 2010, 10 am. Place of seizure, (these evidence) have been seized from him: Chithulia village; police station and district Pirojpur. Abdul Manik Poshari, father: Shahiduddin Poshari (ex). Description of seized items: two corrugated tins, very old with marks of burn and a door-frame (pedi), very old with marks of burn.

Saidur Rahman (Prosecution): Here’s your signature.

Mahbubul Alam (witness): This is the list of what was seized. Secondly, here’s my signature, 3/01. The items have been stored. This is my statement. This is my signature.

Nizamul Haque: Write down during seizure, he took photos of seized properties and other houses. Here we have photocopy of four houses…

Tajul Islam: Is photocopy enough?

Nizamul Haque: There’s my (Mahbubul Alam’s) signature on each photo. It’s exhibition 5/1 series.

Tajul Islam: Let our objection be included.

Nizamul Haque: With objection in bracket.

Haider Ali: Do you know Sayedee? Is he at the court?

Witness, Mahbubul Alam points at Sayedee with his head and says he’s at the back.

Nizamul Haque: I (Mahbubul Alam) know the accused. He is at the court. Identified.

There were no questions asked by the prosecutor.

Tajul Islam for the defence then asked to be given some more time before questioning him. and said that they will visit the place this coming weekend. He said that they could start questioning from Sunday after they have visited the area. 'It’s not that great harm will be done if we don’t start today.'

Nizamul Haque and Justice Zaheer discuss amongst themselves.

Nizamul Haque: If we don’t do the questioning today, we’ll start the second witness and question this witness on Sunday?

Haider Ali agrees.

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