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Chief defence counsel Barrister Abdur Razzak expressed astonishment at the verdict of a 90 years prison sentence given by the tribunal against the former Ameer of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, professor Ghulam Azam, on allegation of crimes against humanity in 1971.
After the announcement of the verdict by International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Monday in the case of Ghulam Azam, in an official response to the verdict Razzak expressed surprise during interview at his home.
Barrister Abdur Razzak said, “We are outraged at the verdict. We are surprised at the verdict. We think that, this judgment is unfair and manipulated by emotions. In the history of the criminal cases worldwide, such kind of judgment cannot be found”.
He added, “the prosecution couldn’t prove any of the 61 charges brought against Professor Ghulam Azam. This was the prosecution’s ultimate failure.”
The defence chief observed, “the prosecution described six events on the first allegation. These are: Ghulam Azam attended meetings with Yahya Khan, the president of the then Pakistan; with Tikka Khan, the military ruler; and with Maulana Moududi.”
“But the prosecution has completely failed to describe what was discussed in those meetings. Attending meeting with someone is no crime against humanity, these complaints don’t belong to the definition of crime against humanity. Still the tribunal has convicted him guilty and sentenced him to 10 years [for that]. This is unacceptable in the sight of law.”
“The prosecution filed the second charge depending on three incidents. These are: Ghulam Azam was involved in the process of formation of Central and local Peace Committees. Just being involved in the process of formation of Peace Committees cannot be any crime against humanity. If so, then the definition of crimes against humanity should be changed first. Yet the tribunal has convicted him of planning genocide & crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 10 years [for that].”
Barrister Abdur Razzak said, “the third and the fourth charge the prosecution brought are based on Ghulam Azam’s 50 statements. They have completely failed to submit any evidence other than just the newspaper cuttings.”
“The investigating officer in this case unequivocally acknowledged in his testimony that there is no such evidence that Professor Ghulam Azam’s statement had any effect on the occurrence of any crimes in 1971. This testimony of the Investigating officer proves beyond doubt that Ghulam Azam had no involvement with crimes against humanity and genocide.”
He said, “the fifth charge is the murder of a man named Siru [full name: Siru Miah]. Here the story of the prosecution is, the Pakistan Army killed the man in response to a letter of Professor Ghulam Azam.”
“The prosecution was unable to submit that letter to the tribunal. No letter, no letter carriers or mail, readers. Yet the tribunal, in their ‘wisdom’, indicted Professor Ghulam Azam for crimes against humanity.”
The defence chief commented, “In the history of criminal law of the last 200-300 years of our country, there is no example of sentencing someone based on such weak evidence. Yet the honorable tribunal has sentenced him to 30 years [for that].”
He said, “This is undoubtedly true, Professor Ghulam Azam politically believed in the integrity of Pakistan. He worked for the independence and sovereignty of the then Pakistan. But working for the independence and sovereignty of Pakistan and inducing genocide or crimes against humanity are completely different matters.”
Barrister Razzak said, “We believe that the charges brought against Ghulam Azam do not have any substance of genocide and crimes against humanity. This verdict is not a lawful verdict. We will file an appeal at the High Court against this judgment.”
In response to the sentence of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s former leader Professor Ghulam Azam, his son former Brigadier General Abdullahil Amaan Azmi stated, “This is a completely irrational and biased verdict.” He said that “the sentence was given vengefully with political purposes. Those who failed confronting him face to face gave this verdict out of dogmatic political fervour. We will appeal against this sentence.” General Abdullahil Amaan Azmi was present as the sentence was announced on Monday as a family member. He stood next to Professor Ghulam Azam, who was in the dock, as the sentence was given. He spoke at the same time with the lawyers sat in rows in front of the tribunal.
After the sentence was announced he told his reaction to some members of the defence team. At that time Advocate Saifur Rahman, Advocate Shahjahan Kabir, Advocate Tariqul Islam, Advocate Gazi MH Tamim and Advocate Sajjad Ali respectively were there with him. Abdullahil Amaan Azmi said, “Professor Ghulam Azam was not a minister in 1971. Instead of those ministers or government officials, a civilian is being labelled with superior responsibility or command responsibility.”
He said, “This tribunal was from the beginning riddled with questions. The United Nations and various other international organisations have questioned this tribunal. After Skype conversations of the tribunal’s judge were leaked, the tribunal’s agenda has been in question. This verdict is a reflection of the government’s wishes.”
Abdullahil Amaan Azmi said, “Professor Ghulam Azam is a veteran of the Bengali Language Movement. There is nothing to sentence him for. The tribunal said that no crime was arranged in his presence. Then how did they give him a punishment? We will appeal against this sentence. I hope we will get a fair hearing for the appeal.”
He said, “My father was on the side of unity in Pakistan in 1971. But he did not speak against any individual, race or party.”
Ghulam Azam has been sentenced to 90 years in prison by the International Crimes Tribunal. This trial has been widely criticised as being politically motivated, with no valid evidence provided by the prosecution. The judge himself stated that the prosecution did not prove any direct involvement in war crimes. During the trial, his legal team was limited to 12 witnesses, only 1 of whom was allowed to appear in court. The prosecution were not limited in this way yet were only able to provide 16 witnesses who provided hearsay statements only. Further analysis of the trial can be found here
Ghulam Azam’s son Salman Azami has responded to the news in several interviews.
PRESS RELEASE ON BEHALF OF TOBY CADMAN OF 9BRI, COUNSEL FOR PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM
“Courts try cases, but cases also try courts”
– Justice Robert Jackson
The verdict and sentence rendered by the International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh today is deeply disturbing and unexpected. The defence team will immediately start in its preparation to mount an appeal, but with the issuance of this judgment today, the Tribunal has lost all credibility in terms of its independence and impartiality. The total lack of credible evidence presented by the Prosecution has demonstrated that the Tribunal has little interest in bringing an end to impunity and bringing justice to the victims of the 1971 War of Liberation. The Tribunal Chairman demonstrated this unequivocally by stating that “the documents which the prosecution have submitted as evidence were not adequate”, but then proceeded to convict Professor Ghulam Azam and pass a sentence of death (commuted to 90 years due to his old age).
The Tribunal was established with the stated aim of bringing to justice those who committed crimes of an international character during the nine-month armed conflict in 1971. It is the duty of the present Tribunal to determine criminal responsibility for specific acts based on due process of law. An Accused cannot be convicted for acts that are so unclear that he is unable to know what he is to challenge. An Accused also cannot be convicted for being on the losing side of a conflict. The only way an Accused can be convicted is if specific crimes can be attributed to his conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the standard of proof in the law applicable to this Tribunal, and there is simply no way to apply this standard to the case presented against Professor Ghulam Azam in a manner that justifies his conviction.
The Defence argued during the trial that, in light of its legal, evidential and fair trial submissions, the Prosecution has not proven any of the charges against Professor Ghulam Azam beyond reasonable doubt or at all, and as such he should have been acquitted of all charges.
The Tribunal has a responsibility to ensure justice to the victims of the Liberation War, but it also has a duty to ensure justice to an Accused. Justice is only meaningful if it is fair.
According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Professor Ghulam Azam has been detained since his arrested in arbitrary detention and in breach of international law. The matter was referred to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Inhuman Degrading Treatment and Punishment. Further, in a joint statement the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers and the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Execution have raised serious concern as to the fairness of proceedings before the Tribunal.
Despite these very serious concerns raised by the international community the trial against Professor Ghulam Azam continued and he has now been convicted by a judicial institution that has been alleged to have engaged in instances of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct that may constitute attempts to subordinate perjury and pervert the course of justice; both of which are serious criminal offences.
As is now well established, the Defence in this trial (as well as all the other trials before this Tribunal) has been made to endure a myriad of injustices and procedural improprieties, which has precluded the possibility for Professor Ghulam Azam to receive a fair trial from the very beginning. These improprieties include witnesses committing perjury, judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, and undue influence by the executive. These are very serious allegations that have impacted on the conduct of the proceedings. All such allegations have been summarily dismissed without further inquiry that now call into question the integrity of the entire process.
The challenges with which the Defence has had to endure in this trial have been manifold. Throughout the proceedings the Defence has been thwarted in its efforts to put forward its case or to exercise the Accused’s right to properly challenge the charges against him. In this case, one defence witness had been threatened, apparently by a member of the prosecution, with facing charges for war crimes himself if he decided to testify on behalf of Professor Ghulam Azam. Another potential defence witness was arrested shortly before he was due to depose. This reflects a similar incident that has received international attention, when a prosecution-turned-defence witness, in the Sayedee case, was abducted by plain-clothed police officers outside the gates of the Tribunal on the morning of his testimony. He was detained by law enforcement officials in Dhaka, tortured, and then thrown over the border into India where he has been held in custody ever since.
The plethora of concerns with the trials generally has been widely published both in Bangladesh and the international media. Following the publication in the widely respected British publication The Economist of last November’s leaked Skype conversations and e-mails between the former presiding judge and Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Md Nizamul Huq with an undeclared third party, revealed to be a Bangladeshi law professor residing in Belgium, the scale of the injustice that the Accused has had to face has become clear. It must be stated that in light of the exposed transcripts of those conversations and emails, it appears obvious that even the most basic standards of fairness and due process have been wilfully ignored and the rush to judgment has become all too apparent.
What is also clear from the leaked conversations and e-mails is the overwhelming evidence that reveals serious judicial and prosecutorial misconduct and the collusion of the Government with members of the judiciary and prosecution to ensure quick convictions. Indeed, the exposure of these conversations was the validation of years of criticism of the Tribunal since its inception by prominent international bodies including the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Human Rights Watch, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Amnesty International as well as the UK House of Lords and US Ambassador for Global Justice, Stephen Rapp, to mention but a few.
The Government is rushing to judgment in order to bring about a symbolic end. Needless to say, we consider this a gross injustice toward our client, Professor Ghulam Azam. This latest decision constitutes a very serious violation of internationally accepted principles of fairness, which, sadly, reflects the conduct of this Tribunal since its inception.
Toby M. Cadman
London, 15 July 2013
 Quoted in TELFORD TAYLOR, THE ANATOMY OF THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: A PERSONAL MEMOIR 45 (1992)
It is widely reported that the verdict in the ICT trial is expected today. The flaws of this trial have been detailed on this website and elsewhere by human rights groups and the international media, but to date this has not resulted in any improvement of the legal process against the defendants, including Professor Ghulam Azam. It is with regret that we expect this politically motivated trial to rule against Ghulam Azam, despite a complete failure to provide any evidence to support the allegations of the prosecution.