Corroborating the evidence of a prosecution witness, a martyred freedom fighter’s son on Wednesday accused Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Abdus Sobhan of perpetrating atrocities in villages across Pabna in collaboration with Pakistan occupation forces during the 1971 Liberation War.
“On May 11, 1971, Maulana Sobhan boarding a white private car followed by an army convoy swooped on village Kolania, Pabna,” recalled M Shahidullah alias Shahid, now 64, while testifying as PW-21 before the International Crimes Tribunal-2 against the detained Jamaat leader.
“I along with my comrades in arms had seen the massacre from a hideout into a nearby bamboo grove,” said Shahid, adding that the occupation army through indiscriminate gunshots marched towards Samuz Uddin Pramanik’s house.
Seeing the army attack led by Maulana Sobhan, the besieged villagers, including Samuz Uddin Praamanik and his wife, came out of their house and moved running helter skelter for safe shelter, he said.
At one stage, the advancing troops killed Samuz Uddin on the spot following an indication from Maulana Sobhan, said the eyewitness PW, adding that the army then had gone berserk in and around.
Shahid told the tribunal that after Kolania, Maulana Sobhan along with his army convoy had carried out atrocities in Dogachhi killing people, damaging houses, bazars and torching a Hindu Mandir.
In September, 1971, the PW, referring to his political source engaged during the wartime, said, “Maulana Sobhan and a group of army boarding a pickup van swooped on their house twice and captured my father.”
“On both occasions, my father was tortured inhumanly at the makeshift army camp in presence of Maulana Sobhan who had created tremendous pressure on my father during the captivity to bring back his two sons from liberation struggle against Pakistan,” said Shahid.
According to his mother, PW Shahid told the tribunal that when his mother had met Sobhan to appeal for releasing her husband from the captivity, she was told that her captive husband would be freed if his two freedom fighter sons return from the Liberation War and join Razakar force.
The PW said on October 13 in 1971, a group of Razakar and Al Badr had hacked his father to death while he was returning home after offering Magrib prayers at a nearby mosque.
The PW said, “We could have taken revenge of my father’s killing after the independence, but we didn’t do so, rather we had shown patience and held down our mind as a victor.”
“I want justice for killing my father from this tribunal. What offence had my father, a peace-loving man, committed?” questioned emotion-choked Shahid who failed to hold back his tears.
“My father had sacrificed his life due to our participation in the Liberation War. We’ve got the independence and a red-green flag, symbolising the green motherland and bloods of millions,” he said.
Shahid further told the tribunal, “Seeing the Bangladesh flag bearing a drop of my father’s blood in the red circle gives us a great relief.”
Before concluding his deposition, the PW identified accused Maulana Sobhan in the dock, saying, “I know him for a long time as a political leader.”
The deposition over, Shahid was cross-examined in part by defence counsel Mizanul Islam.
Asked whether he knew that the prosecution did not bring the allegation of killing his father accusing Maulana Sobhan, the PW said, “I know the allegation has been brought against him.”
Replying to a defence question, the Liberation War hero told the tribunal when he came to know the death news of his father, his younger brother Habibur Rahman, a freedom fighter, was not with him.
On December 31, 2013, the tribunal framed charges against accused Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Abdus Sobhan for his involvement in crimes against humanity, including genocide, during the 1971 Liberation War, dismissing his discharge plea.
On September 19, 2013, after perusing the formal charge along with relevant statements and documents submitted by the prosecution, the tribunal took cognisance of the charges against Maulana Sobhan as it found a strong prima facie case against the accused under sections 3(2), 4(1) and 4(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
On September 20, 2012, Sobhan, the number three man in the Jamaat-e-Islami hierarchy, was held by the members of an army intelligence agency at the Bangabandhu Bridge toll plaza in Tangail in connection with a case of violence. Later, the accused was handed over to the police.
The tribunal, upon a prosecution plea, had shown Sobhan arrested in connection with the case of the 1971 crimes against humanity.
According to the prosecution, it received allegations like genocide, rape, arson and looting perpetrated by Sobhan, the then leader of Pabna Peace Committee (collaborator) and Pabna district Jamaat ameer, in collaboration with Pakistan occupation forces, including Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams, during the Liberation War.
Sobhan had allegedly played a key role in organizing Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams, the auxiliary forces of the Pakistani junta, in Pabna district.