30/09/2014 Ghulam Azam “in critical state”
07/10/13 2nd ICT witness scandal
07/10/13 Economist on war crimes trial
16/07/13 Full judgement can now be downloaded here
16/07/13 Protest in London following verdict
15/07/13 Statement from Amaan Azmi
15/07/13 Verdict expected today
16/06/13 Ghulam Azam on language movement
11/06/13 Ghulam Azam in prison for 17 months
08/06/13 Family History added to Biography section
28/05/13 Update on Professor Ghulam Azam
04/05/13 Prof Saiyed Ali Ahsan on Ghulam Azam
22/4/13 HRW submission on Bangladesh
22/4/13 Interview with Mamoon Al-Azami (eldest son of Ghulam Azam) – Bengali with English subtitles
21/4/13 New articles added to media page – New Statesman and Speech by Salman Al-Azami
21/3/13 Statement from Afifa Azam, on Ghulam Azam’s thoughts on the current situation in Bangladesh
20/3/13 Sad news of death of Ghulam Azam’s brother Dr. Mahdi Uz Zaman
7/3/13 New page on Statements by International bodies
4/3/13 Salman Azami on Bangladesh’s ICT and Shahbag on Al Jazeera Inside Story on Media page
28/2/13 Article on Free speech in Bangladesh here
25/2/13 Islamic Human Rights Commission Action Alert re: Ghulam Azam
25/2/13 New sample letter to MPs available here
21/2/13 Ghulam Azam’s son writes about his role in the language movement
19/2/13 Interview with Salman Azami on illegal war crimes trial and Professor Ghulam Azam’s innocence on Al Jazeera English
06/01/13 Retrial plea rejected
Legal submission for retrial of Professor Ghulam Azam
Human Rights Watch calls for a retrial due to serious failings in the ICT
The Economist publishes its widely anticipated article on Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal.
ICT chairman issues order accusing The Economist of hacking his private phone and skype conversations. See here for further details.
Ghulam Azam taken ill and denied medical attention by authorities. See here for further information
Defence witnesses limited to 12 by ICT tribunal. The defence counsel have been refused two foreign expert witnesses willing to testify for Professor Ghulam Azam.
Ghulam Azam indicted for war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal. See here for further details.
A bizarre day at the ICT on Thursday to say the least! It seems that in presenting formal charges Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla, the hapless prosecution counsel, Mr Sultan Mahmud, earned the dissatisfaction of the judges when he consistently made errors of historical fact, wrongly named officers of the Pakistani Army and even the names and titles of the tribunal judges!
The prosecution produced a video as part of their evidence. The 55 minute documentary did not have any footage of Ghulam Azam at all. See here for more information.
The hearing on the formal charges against Professor Ghulam Azam’s charges at the International Crimes Tribunal began this afternoon. The verdict on Azam’s bail petition has been delayed until 23 February.
Ghulam Azam’s bail petition has been delayed. It may be held tomorrow but the date has not yet been given. The Bangladesh government will by now be aware that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that the detention of other political leaders is in contravention of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Ghulam Azam’s bail petition is to be filed on Monday, with the hearing for it expected on Tuesday
Ghulam Azam’s youngest son publishes article in Naya Diganta on his father’s arrest. The article (in Bangla) can be found here. A translation will follow shortly.
The family continues to have concerns regarding Ghulam Azam’s health and treatment in custody. He has not yet been charged, let alone convicted of any crimes yet is being treated very poorly. He has only recently been given access to his lawyers and is still being denied reading material and regular contact from the family.
Recent news reports regarding Ghulam Azam:
2 counsels to meet Ghulam Azam
Lawyers permitted to meet Ghulam Azam
Ghulam Azam’s vision, hearing deteriorating: Dr Abdullah
Ghulam Azam’s son, Amaan Azmi responded to allegations that he was involved in the recent “foiled coup” by Army officers. He strongly denied the accusations, saying that he had served the army for 30 years with honour and would support punishment of anyone involved in such a plot. Further information here.
Professor Ghulam Azam was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital for an MRI scan today. He was then transferred back to BSMMU hospital until further notice. No date has yet been given for his transfer to prison, however his family are continuing to lobby for bail or as a minimum, division when in prison. He continues to suffer from a number of medical problems, including back pain and gallbladder problems.
A member of the defence team was arrested and detained today for photocopying documents.
Ghulam Azam remains in hospital. The previous low quality of food has improved since his family made complaints about this, although it is still inadequate. Despite media reports announcing him to be fit and well, he suffers from a number of age-related complaints including back pain, requiring regular physiotherapy. He has also been denied access to a Quran, which violates universal human rights standards. An application for division [a higher standard of prison accommodation] has been made.
An article was published in Amader Shomoy today which states that the UN Human Rights Commission has demanded that the Bangladeshi Government explain the arrest of political leaders including Matiur Rahman Nizami. This letter, sent by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was written to the government on September 12th requesting a response within 60 days, however this deadline has since been extended. This demonstrates the level of international concern about the so-called International Crimes Tribunal, and we await further comment from the UN with interest.
Please speak out about this inhumane treatment of a wrongfully accused victim of the Awami League government. See How You Can Help for more information.
Professor Ghulam Azam’s wife Mrs Syeda Afifa Azam expressed concern about the life of her husband in a statement. She went to see Prof Azam in the BSMMU hospital prison on Friday along with her son and a granddaughter where she found her husband in a very frail condition. The statement is given below:
“We are shocked at the behaviour of the hospital and prison authorities in spite of advice from the specialists. He is becoming thinner and increasingly weaker day by day because of the lack of nutritious food, and if this continues, anything may happen to him. I call upon the hospital and prison authorities to ensure he receives nutritious food.”
“After seeing him today, I am worried about my husband’s life. At 10.30 am on Friday, the prison authorities agreed 3.30 pm for me to meet my husband at the prison cell. When I arrived there on time, the authorities of the prison cell made me, an 80 year old woman, wait for an hour without even having the courtesy to give reasons. The man (my husband) who left the house for court 16 days ago on 11 January 2012 walking was almost unrecognizable today. He was so weak that he could merely sit on his bed with the help of two people. He is not able to have a single meal in peace. “
“An 89-year-old man needs constant care and support,, whereas he even has to [perform menial tasks such as] washing his own plate. The inhuman behaviour towards him shown by the hospital and prison authorities is a gross violation of human rights. After many oral and written efforts, we could not yet provide him with Qur’an, Hadith, Qur’an Translation and Tafsir (commentary) for the last 17 days that could keep him going in his solitary life. In spite of trying for two weeks, no barber was arranged for him. After the specialist’s recommendation and many oral and written applications, he was allowed some additional foods on Thursday. He is not getting the types of food he needs. There have been around 10-12 applications to the hospital and prison authorities most of which have not even been replied. The way both the authorities are trying to avoid our family is hurtful and extremely discourteous. “
“The incident that caused us the greatest concern is that he was about to fall down in the bathroom due to weakness while having a shower on Wednesday. In that condition, he somehow sat down on the bathroom floor. Then he tried for half an hour to get up with his knees on the floor and hands on the commode and basin, but failed to get up. Finally, he called a security guard who helped him get up, but injured his knees in the process. It was, in his language, ‘One of the most difficult days of my life’. Overall, we are very concerned about his life. The indifferent attitude, behaviour and neglect of the authorities are very inhuman. We want an immediate solution to his problems.”
Human Rights Watch published its World Report recently, and also posted an article on its website entitled Bangladesh: Tightened Control and Broken Promises. This documents human rights abuses in Bangladesh under the aegis of the Awami League government, including a rise in extrajudicial killings, disappearances, harassment of human rights organisations, and torture.
They also criticised the International Crimes Tribunal, saying:
Charges have been filed against seven people accused of war crimes during the 1971 war for independence. The first trial under the tribunal began in September against Delawar Hossein Sayedee. Some important amendments were made in June to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Rules of Procedure, which included ensuring the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public trial, the right against double jeopardy, and the right to counsel of the accused’s choice.
However, these amendments did not address other important shortcomings in the rules, such as the denial of interlocutory appeals, the need to establish a defense office, and the need to repeal article 47(A) of the constitution, which denies fundamental rights under the constitution to individuals accused under the ICT Act. The provision even bars claims that article 47(A) is unconstitutional.
The proceedings in Sayedee’s case raise serious concerns about the impartiality of the bench and the rights of the accused to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said. The accused has been denied access to foreign counsel of his choice, and the defense teams contend that defense witnesses and investigators have been harassed.
“Bangladesh promised to meet international standards in these landmark trials, but it still has a long way to go to meet this commitment,” Adams said. “Bangladesh could have set the standard for other nations that have suffered from unspeakable abuses, but problems with the law and the conduct of the first trial are throwing away this opportunity.”
Today, Abdullahil Amaan Azmi (ex-Brigadier General in Bangladeshi Army) held a press conference in which he responded to false media reports that he and his younger brother Numan had been involved in the alleged attempted coup against the Awami League government. He stated the following clearly:
- That he had no involvement in the alleged coup and would not support any such action
- He had served the Bangladeshi Army for 30 years with “sincerity, honesty and discipline”
- No one in the family had any links with anyone named as being involved in the coup
- Those involved in such actions should be punished
- That his brother, Numan Azmi, lives in the UK and had never been to Pakistan or Malaysia as suggested in the media and also had no knowledge of or involvement in the coup
- The media reports are aimed at tarnishing the family’s image after Ghulam Azam’s arrest
His statement was reported widely in the Bangladeshi media. See articles on BDNews24 or The Daily Star for further details on his statement. An English translation will be available shortly on this site.
We strongly condemn this harassment of Ghulam Azam’s family who have been unfairly targeted as a result of his political activities. It also illustrates the lack of consideration of the truth in reporting by some media outlets in Bangladesh.
The arrest of Professor Ghulam Azam was condemned by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). The organisation, chaired by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, made the following statement:
Statement by the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Response to the Arrest of Professor Ghulam Azam and Other Thinkers and the Erosion of Civil Liberties by the Bangladeshi Government
The International Union of Muslim Scholars condemns the arrest of Professor Ghulam Azam and other thinkers by the Bangladeshi government, and urges the government to speed up the release of all political prisoners and to respect civil liberties. The International Union of Muslim scholars appeals to the Muslim world, and international organizations to pressure the Bangladeshi government to cease these oppressive practices.
Praise be to God, prayers and peace upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, companions and allies.
The International Union of Muslim Scholars is following closely and with deep concern the events and the latest developments in the Republic of Bangladesh regarding violations of human rights under the current government and the use of threats, retribution and imprisonment in order to suppress freedoms. Many people have been imprisoned due to their opinions and disagreement with the current government, including even his excellence the great Sheikh Professor Ghulam Azam, the former leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, and a most prominent Islamic personality respected by millions across the global Muslim community.
The International Union of Muslim Scholars, in their denunciation of these arrests, states the following:
First: That the arrest of the revered Sheikh, who is soon to reach 90 years of age and who has dedicated his life to the service of the Islamic cause and called on all Muslims to comply with the tolerant teachings of Islam based on moderation and centrism, is disgraceful, and has shaken the reputation of a fellow Islamic state throughout the world.
Second: That the charge of Professor Ghulam Azam and his fellow scholars and Islamic activists of committing war crimes more than forty years ago is irrational and cannot be accepted by Muslims around the world. If there were war crimes, as is claimed, where has the national judiciary been throughout this long period, and why did they not accuse them of these crimes when they were allies of the ruling party? If they actually were war criminals, how could they have been elected by the people Bangladesh with millions of votes to become members of Parliament and become ministers in the government? If the issue is the political opposition of these leaders in 1971 to the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan, especially in light of clear external intervention, it should be understood that this is a right for them guaranteed by all legislations, constitutions and international laws. It is natural for a citizen who is loyal to his homeland to not desire anything save the unity of his country and to see the preservation of this unity as a national and religious duty.
Third: The Union calls on the Bangladeshi government to release Professor Ghulam Azam and the other political leaders immediately, so that these arrests do not lead to the deepening of political differences and to the expansion of intractable social conflicts in a fellow Islamic country, for which we wish growth and prosperity. We wish that all efforts and resources in Bangladesh be spent towards construction and the overall national development.
Fourth: The Union reminds the government of Bangladesh that the era of injustice and the restriction of people’s liberties is over. We have seen a number of Arab peoples who have liberated themselves from fear and expelled the oppressive tyrants and established a new democratic era which guarantees people freedom, justice and equality, and which frees nations from chains and shackles. The Bangladeshi government should act accordingly; it should make every effort to unite the resources of the people of Bangladesh to achieve comprehensive development of this country.
Fifth: We warn the Bangladeshi government that these ill practices will have an adverse effect on the Bangladeshi government and people, and that they are doomed to failure. The fate of the oppressors and tyrants is death and destruction, as God the Most Exalted says: “Those who oppressed within the lands, and increased therein the corruption, your Lord poured on them the disaster of His punishment. Indeed, your Lord is ever watchful.” (89:11-14)
Sixth: We remind the government of Bangladesh that land of Bangladesh was part of India major before it broke from India in the form of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, composed of East and West Pakistan. It then separated from Pakistan and formed its own state. However, this state remains a part of the original Islamic state, of which Islam was the essence and the foundation of its mission. It ought not to be fighting Allah and those who call to Him, and should not exile His people, and bring closer His opponents. This is what exposes the country to danger, for there is nothing to support this country except Islam, and no helper for its people except Islam.
“God always prevails in whatever is His purpose, but most people know it not.” (12:21) And He is the one whose aid we seek.
Safar, 24, 1432 AH
Dr.Yusuf al-Qaradawi Dr. Ali al-Qaradaghi
A researcher from Ghulam Azam’s legal team was arrested today while photocopying documents for the case. According to BDNews24, the researcher was photocopying a document when a call was received by the New Market police station, purporting to be from the tribunal, asking them to detain the man. They also seized the documents which were being photocopied and refused to release them until the International Crimes Tribunal directed them to do so.
The tribunal’s chairperson stated that the documents were confidential and needed to be kept secret. Judge Zaheer Ahmed denied knowledge of the phone call but refused to investigate further, saying “We will not go into that. It could have been a secret informant”. The judge also stated that court documents should not be taken to a public place for photocopying. However, the number of pages (in total over 25,000) made it impractical for the defence team to do otherwise. They were advised that, although this rule was not in place previously, they would need to apply for permission to photocopy documents in future.
This is yet another example of the harassment of defence lawyers, which has been criticised by Human Rights Watch. It also highlights media bias in presenting the police and ICT in a favourable light even after subjecting an innocent person to unnecessary police detention, with no apology issued to the victim. This occurs in the context of giving the defence team only three weeks to prepare their case, thus wasting time and delaying them further.
The international community has started to take note of the so-called International Crimes Tribunal and have raised questions about its legality and authority.
During a roundtable discussion at CIRDAP auditorium yesterday, professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, Laurel E Fletcher, stated that “such trials run the risk of turning into political show trials, where laws are bent to produce predetermined results.” During this same discussion, it was claimed that criticising the trial was effectively, by extension, questioning “the very sovereignty of the country” – a ludicrous statement aimed at silencing opposition to the trial within Bangladesh.
The Manchester Evening News published an article about the family’s concerns that Ghulam Azam will not receive a fair trial in Bangladesh.
A Toronto-based human rights group, Bangladesh Watch, has criticised the actions of the Bangladesh government and condemned them as being politically motivated. It has called for an end to the harassment of political opponents of the Awami League government.
Pakistan Today, a prominent daily newspaper, published an article yesterday condemning the arrest of Ghulam Azam, saying “Keeping Prof Azam’s clean political and social life in view and analysing his contribution to the prosperity and development of Bangladesh, it is needed that such a respectable and seasoned politician should be released.”
It has also emerged that the UN Commission on Human Rights had written to the Bangladeshi government for an explanation of the legal basis of the arrest and detention of six opposition leaders [from BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami]. Bangladesh have yet to respond to this demand.
The Daily Sangram reported that an attempt was made to attack Professor Ghulam Azam’s home on Thursday night. A translation (retrieved from another source) is below:
An armed gang of militants staged an attack on the house of the former leader of Jammat-e-Islam, Professor Ghulam Azam. Last Thursday, in the dead of the night, the house was attacked by a gang carrying weapons and walkie-talkies, the family reports.
Professor Ghulam Azam’s private secretary Nazmul Haq stated that last Thursday night, at Professor Ghulam Azams Kazi Office Lane residence, 80-100 armed men in 7-8 micro-buses attacked the house. They left their vehicles in the alley leading to Kazi Office Lane, and forced the guard to open the main gate at the entrance to the Lane. 25-30 of the attackers then entered the lane, and asked the owner of the shop opposite to Prof. Ghulam Azam’s house to point out the house, and then forced him to close down the shop.
They positioned themselves in front of the house, and tried to enter the building. The watchman asked them their identity, and for what reason they wanted to enter – they did not answer, but instead were abusive and repeatedly asked for the gate to be opened. They reached through the grille and wrestled with the guard, and attempted to break down the grille. Hearing this commotion , guards and watchmen from neighbouring residences began to come over. When the gang realised that the guard would not at any cost open the main gate, they eventually left. The family members of Prof. Ghulam Azam felt very helpless and frightened, he said. Witnesses report that the gang were armed with sticks, weapons and held walkie-talkies.
Professor Ghulam Azam gave an interview to the Daily Sangram the night before he was arrested. Please see an excerpt below, which demonstrates his courage in the face of such hardship:
“My dear brothers, please remember that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself had to endure a lot of suffering. This is nothing compared to what he faced during the siege at Shib-e Abu Talib. As we have decided to follow in his path, we have to face difficulties. Please don’t worry about us – think about the country, about the people of the country, about the Islamic way of life. If Allah decides to open the door of martyrdom for us, then it is our good fortune, so please don’t worry about us – just keep praying.
And continue your movement in a lawful manner, to save the country, to save its people, to keep its sovereignty. Do not break the law of the country. Do not do anything that will bring sufferings to its people. We are not amongst those who call their supporters to take ten lives in revenge of one life [referring to Sheikh Hasina]. Those who follow the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him) cannot speak so inhumanly. I urge you all to systematically strive hard for the country, for its people, to stop Tipaimukh, to stop transit, to keep the country’s sovereignty. ”
Professor Ghulam Azam was arrested today on alleged charges of war crimes. These accusations have a clearly political motivation, to discredit Jamaat-e-Islami and prevent their role in Bangladeshi politics. Despite Ghulam Azam’s opposition to the creation of Bangladesh, he has never advocated or participated in ‘crimes against humanity’.
It is deeply regrettable that the judges have refused bail in view of his age and ill health. The lack of impartiality of the judges has already been noted by international human rights lawyers (see previous post). The Bangladeshi government must ensure that a fair trial is conducted to international standards if this trial is to have any credibility. A trial of this nature is already severely flawed by the lack of credible contemporaneous evidence, intimidation of defence lawyers and witnesses, and statements by government officials seeming to anticipate the outcome of the trial before it has even concluded.