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War crimes trial of Azhar begins

Staff Correspondent

The trial of war crime accused Jamaat leader ATM Azharul Islam began on Thursday with the prosecutors detailing the charges against him in a 115-page opening statement.
Prosecutors Zead-Al Malum, Saiful Islam, Tapos Kanti Baul, Nurjahan Begum Mukta and Rezia Sultana Chamon placed the opening statement before the International Crimes Tribunal-1, skipping certain parts of it.
On December 19, examination of the prosecution witnesses would begin, said the judges.
Indicted on six counts of crimes against humanity, Azhar was in the dock.
He faces the charges of genocide, murders, abductions, confinement, torture, setting houses ablaze, looting and forced deportation of Hindus from Rangpur during the liberation war.
He also faces the charge of superior responsibility in the 1971 war crimes.
Placing his submission, prosecutor Saiful Islam said that Azhar was the president of Rangpur unit of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the erstwhile student wing of Jamaat, and was in command of the Rangpur district unit Al-Badr during the war.
Saiful submitted that Azhar made ICS members to join Al-Badr and became its Rangpur commander. ‘At the beginning of the war, Azhar along with his accomplices from ICS, Al-Badr and with help from the non-Bengalis, collected the names and addresses of people supporting independence, and gave it to the Pakistani army troops at Rangpur Cantonment.’
‘Azhar along with his cohorts used to apprehend women from different areas of Rangpur and confined them at Rangpur Town Hall auditorium, where they were put on immense sufferings. Azhar and his people used to rape them and even presented them before their masters from the then West Pakistan. The women were sometimes thrown into the wells beside the Town Hall and were killed,’ he added.
Concluding the opening statement, prosecutor Zead-Al Malum submitted that the prosecution would be able to prove all the charges against Azhar beyond any shadow of doubt through witnesses and documents.
After placing the opening arguments, the tribunal, partly allowing the defence petition to adjourn the proceedings of the case deferred the hearing on review of the tribunal’s order indicting Azhar to December 8.
The tribunal also set December 8 to hold a hearing on a prosecution petition seeking the tribunal’s permission to allow three of its witnesses to testify in camera, Azhar is a native of Batason Lohanipara, Badarganj, in Rangpur.
On August 22, 2012, Azhar was arrested at his Moghbazar home on war crimes charges.
On July 18, the prosecution submitted the formal charges against Azhar on six counts of crime against humanity he allegedly committed in Rangpur during the War of Independence in 1971.
The ICT-2, on the other hand, responding to a defence plea, deferred the date of charge hearing against former Jatiya Party state minister, Syed Md Qaisar, to December 15.

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