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Blockade hinders war crimes trial

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Staff Reporter
The blockade, enforced by BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance protesting the 10th parliamentary polls schedule, obstructed in part the trial of the cases of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War as the designated counsel for the accused did not appear before the International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Sunday.
Sunday was scheduled for hearing on the defence plea seeking review on the charge framing order against accused 1971 Al Badr commander ATM Azharul Islam of Jamaat-e-Islami and the petition opposing to take testimony in camera against Azharul by the three prosecution witnesses, including two women, put forward by the prosecution for their protection and social safety.
Barrister Abdur Razzaq, the designated defence counsel for Azharul, could not attend the tribunal on the ground of ‘personal difficulty’ as stated in his petition.
Allowing the defence plea, the three-member tribunal fixed December 10 (Tuesday) for hearing both the petitions.
On November 12, dismissing his discharge plea, the tribunal indicted suspected 1971 Al Badr commander ATM Azharul Islam for his involvement in crimes against humanity, including genocide, during the 1971 Liberation War.
Azharul, now 61, faces the charges of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War like killing, abduction, confinement, torture, loot, arson, rape and genocide in Rangpur district.
A week after submitting the formal charge by the prosecution, the tribunal on July 25 took cognisance of the charge against the detained Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general as it found a strong prima facie case against the accused under subsections 3(2) and 4(1)(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
According to the prosecution case, Azharul, the then Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS) president of Rangpur district unit, had been involved in the killing of more than 1,200 unarmed innocent civilians in Rangpur during the Liberation War in collaboration with the Pakistan occupation army and its auxiliary forces like Al Badr, a vigilante group of Jamaat-e-Islami.
It mentioned that Azharul had played a key role in the killing of intellectuals, cultural personalities, physicians and lawyers in different areas of Rangpur during the war.
On August 22 last year, police arrested Azharul from his Moghbazar house in the capital in connection with the war crimes case hours after the tribunal issued warrant against him following a prosecution plea.

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