WEB DESK: Five prominent Pakistani citizens, whose evidence could exonerate a Bangladesh opposition politician sentenced to death for crimes against humanity, are urging the Bangladesh courts to allow them to testify, according to Al-Jazeera television.
The Pakistani citizens include Mohammedmian Soomro, who in 2007 held the position of prime minister, Ishaq Khan Khakwani, a former federal minister, and Amber Haroon Saigol, who is the chairperson of Dawn Media Group. The other two are businessmen.
They all claim that Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was living in Karachi in April 1971 when the four offences, for which he was sentenced to death, took place. “It is the truth. And to save someone’s life of course I would come to Bangladesh to testify if the court allowed it.”
The four death sentences were originally imposed in October 2013, by the International Crimes Tribunal, a domestic court based in Dhaka which was established to prosecute Bangladeshis alleged to have committed crimes in support of the Pakistani army in 1971.
Chowdhury, whose father died in jail in 1973 after being arrested following the end of the war, has until Thursday to file an application seeking a review of the appellate division ruling which late last month upheld his death sentence.
The Pakistani witnesses say that they had hoped to give their evidence at the Tribunal itself, but the court, having allowed the prosecution to summon 41 witnesses, ruled that that Chowdhury’s defence lawyers could only summon a total of five witnesses to testify.
The witnesses then drafted sworn affidavits which were submitted to the court, but both the Tribunal and the Appellate Division ruled them inadmissible.
The Tribunal has so far convicted 24 people, most of them leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Two of their leaders, Abdul Quader Mollah and Mohammad Kamruzzman, have so far been executed. Chowdhury would be the first leader of the opposition BNP to be executed.
The party itself has not made any public statements in his support. Although the tribunal has been seriously criticised by human rights organisations outside the country, proceedings seem to have widespread support in Bangladesh, and receive no criticism from local human rights groups.
As first reported in The Wire, the five witnesses say that it would be highly unjust to execute Chowdhury without having heard their testimony. Muneeb Arjmand Khan, a garment exporter, says that his testimony would “have changed the whole proceedings of the court”.
He says that on March 29, he collected Chowdhury, an old school friend, from Karachi airport and took him to the house of the Haroon family, and then three weeks later put him on a plane to Lahore where he was going to study.
Source: Business Recorder