1st witness testifies before Bangla Crimes Tribunal

Bangladesh in March last year constituted the high-powered three-member tribunal along with a special investigation agency.

Dhaka: The first prosecution witness of
Bangladesh`s International Crimes Tribunal on Wednesday testified
against a top suspect of 1971 war crimes who was indicted two
months ago on 20 charges of "crimes against humanity" during
the Liberation War.

Court officials said a 1971 freedom fighters` commander
Mahbubul Alam Hawladar appeared as the first witness since the
Tribunal was constituted in March last year to try the
Bengali-speaking perpetrators of 1971 war crimes.

He testified against fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami leader
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, who is the first indicted accused of
the tribunal.

"Hawladar`s deposition is underway and so far he narrated
the background of Sayeedi`s engagement with the Pakistani
troops and their auxiliary and supporting forces", a
prosecution lawyer said.

The prosecution last month submitted a 90-page statement
against Sayeedi before the three-judge tribunal headed by High
Court judge Nizamul Haque.

Chief prosecutor Ghulam Arieff Tipu and senior prosecutor
Syed Rezaur Rahman read out statement and brought the charges
including genocide, rape, murder, arson and looting.

Bangladesh in March last year constituted the high-powered
three-member tribunal along with a special investigation
agency and a prosecution cell in line with the election
pledges of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s ruling Awami League
to expose war criminals to justice.

Five of the seven high-profile war crime suspects detained
so far to face the trial belonged to Jamaat-e-Islami, while
the rest two were of now main opposition Bangladesh
nationalist Party (BNP) of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia.

The other Jamaat leaders are party chief Motiur Rahman
Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and
assistant secretaries general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul
Quader Molla.

The two BNP leaders are Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury MP and
former minister Abdul Alim.

If convicted the accused could face the highest death
penalty and the lowest 10 years of imprisonment for crimes
like mass killings, murders, arsons and rapes but under the
International Crimes Tribunal Act the convicts could file
appeals before the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme
Court alone.


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