Who is Kamaruzzaman?
Muhammad Kamaruzzaman is a renowned intellectual, writer, journalist, and a senior leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. He is the editor of the Weekly Shonar Bangla, has authored 8 books, and penned hundreds of articles in various newspapers and periodicals. He joined Jamaat-e-Islami in 1979 and became the party’s Assistant Secretary General in 1992. He was also a popular student leader and a founding member of Bangladesh Islami Chhattra Shibir. He served as the Central President of Shibir in 1978 and ’79. Mr Kamaruzzaman has been representing his party in democratic elections since 1986 with outstanding results.
On 13 July 2010, Mr Kamaruzzaman was arrested by Awami League government, the political arch-rival of Jamaat-e-Islami, on false charges and is now being convicted to death by a politically motivated tribunal.
Why he is being targeted?
There are various reasons for Awami League to target a popular leader like him:
1. Muhammad Kamaruzzaman is a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, the only political party in Bangladesh with an honest leadership capable of moving this country forward from the ruins of corruption, poverty, and injustice.
2. Kamaruzzaman represents the younger generation of leaders within Jamaat-e-Islami who are open to much needed reform and reorganisation of the party around the cultural synthesis of the people of Bangladesh.
3. Kamaruzzaman has been an outspoken critic of the ruling Awami League and through his writings he made people aware of government’s corruption, oppression, and abuse of power.
4. Kamaruzzaman is one of the few leaders with a vision for Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh. With his massive grassroots support and his intellectual wherewithal, he is in a perfect position to bring his vision to reality.
5. Kamaruzzaman became an international face of Jamaat-e-Islami due to his diplomatic connections around the world and in Bangladesh. His understanding of the world politics and ability to elegantly represent Jamaat at the world stage was unparalleled.
With Kamaruzzaman out of the equation, the Awami League assumed that, the Jamaat-e-Islami will be a weaker political force unable to cope with changing socio-political landscape.
What are the allegations against him?
The fascist Awami regime has brought several false and fabricated allegations against Mr Kamaruzzaman. These include allegations of murder, mass murder/genocide, torture, humiliation, plunder, etc. during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971. A total of 7 charges were brought against him. Mr Kamaruzzaman denied all of these baseless charges and pleaded not-guilty.
Why do you say the charges are false and fabricated?
In general, there are 3 main reasons that disqualify the allegations:
1. The charges are newly manufactured and were never heard of! Though the alleged incidents took place more than 40 years ago, no such allegations were brought against Mr Kamaruzzaman by the relatives of the victims or the state until a military-backed Awami League claimed victory in 2009 elections.
2. Immediately after the war, the new government of Bangladesh identified, punished, and in some cases killed the local collaborators of the Pakistani Army. Though Mr Kamaruzzaman was arrested after the war, the authorities did not find any complaint against him and he was released immediately.
3. Mr Kamaruzzaman was born in 1952. During the war, he was only 19 years old! It is impossible that an 19-year-old would assume leadership role of a large paramilitary force like the Albadr or direct a professional armed force like the Pakistani Army, as claimed by the delusional state prosecutors.
A detailed charge-wise analysis could be found here.
How biased and politicised was the court?
The sole purpose of the special tribunal, supposedly set up to deal with “Crimes against Humanity” during 1971 war, is to persecute the top Jamaat-e-Islami leadership. That is why the Awami League government was not particularly interested in maintaining any standards in setting up the courts, passing legislations for such courts, or proceeding with the trials. Since the people of Bangladesh are very sensitive and emotional regarding 1971 Independence War, it is very easy for a Third-World government to dumb down the historical intricacies and treat everyone who opposed independence as criminals. That’s the chance the Awami League government took. And with the help of a spineless judiciary, they are set to achieve their goal of silencing their most effective political opponent. It was absolutely clear, from the very beginning, that these courts are merely kangaroo courts, where standards of law and justice are blatantly disregarded and the verdicts have already been decided before the trials have begun. Several key incidents made this obvious:
1. As revealed in #SkypeGate, the judges of this mockery of justice were directed by Ziauddin Ahmed, a member of a notorious anti-Jamaat group. He was not an official of the court and yet, like a Czar, he controlled every aspect of the tribunal. On many occasions, he has written orders that were handed down by the court as-is. He has also designed a guideline for the judges and a basic structure for all the verdicts to come, way before the trials completed.
2. A number of the Tribunal members participated in the so called Gana Adalat Commission (or People’s Court) that prejudged these cases in the early 1990s. Indeed the former Chairman of the Tribunal is listed as a member of the Secretariat of the Commission.
3. There was clear evidence of collusion between the Tribunal, the prosecution, and members of an anti-Jamaat organization during the trial process. The prosecutor and judges would meet regularly in secret and decide how they would act in unison against the defence.
4. Former Chairmen of the ICT-1, Justice Nizamul Huq, admitted that a state minister, Quamrul Islam, pressured him for quick verdicts and a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Justice SK Sinha, offered him promotion in return.
5. On several occasions, the judges declared that they have a particular view of the events of 1971 and they would never change that view irrespective of whatever evidence or witness testimony are presented before them.
6. In cases where they felt that the state’s accusations are not enough to convict a defendant, the judges added extra accusations themselves out of the blue, or advised the prosecution team to strengthen their charges so that it’s easier for them to convict the accused. The accused has to be convicted, no matter how. For example, in Mr Kamaruzzaman’s case the judges refused to accept the charges against him twice because the charges were not strong enough to convict him. Even after accepting the state’s formal charge, the judges in their final verdict added two more charges of their own, of which Kamaruzzaman was not accused.
Such is the political commitment of the court.
How fair was the trial?
The trial was a sham. The International community, legal experts, authorities, the United Nations, and human rights groups have expressed their concerns regarding the Tribunal and criticised it for blatantly disregarding fair trial standards. The international community has also criticised the law governing the Tribunal, ICTA 1973, for being far below any national or international standards. Apart from the law being substandard and mean towards the defendants, the Tribunal itself was deliberately unfair, which became clear during the trial proceeding:
1. As with all other cases before the Tribunals, there was clear evidence of collusion between the Tribunal, the prosecution, and members of an anti-Jamaat organization during the trial process. The law minister and the prosecutors have regular “strategy meetings” with the judges in secret, which is inappropriate and unfair.
2. Emails revealed during the “Skypegate” or “Skype Scandal” suggest that many orders of the court, including the cognisance of the false charges against Kamaruzzaman, was written by Ziauddind Ahmed, an outsider of the court whose role in the tribunal was kept secret by the government from the public. Later findings suggest that the Ministry of Law was also involved in writing orders that were handed down by the courts.
3. The defence efforts were severely damaged when the tribunal decided to limit the number of defence witnesses. The defence lawyers were allowed to present only 5 witnesses in defence of 7 charges. In comparison, the prosecution was allowed to present an unlimited number of witnesses at any stage of the trial and ended up producing 18. When the defence asked for the same facility, they were denied.
4. The defence were also not allowed to produce some crucial evidence before the court. Those evidences include the proof of extortion, abuse of power, blackmailing, and forgery used by the state to manipulate the evidences they submitted and the witnesses they presented. Some of the evidences that proof innocence of the defendant were also not allowed to be presented. In comparison, the prosecution were allowed to produce an unlimited number of unrelated things as evidence at any stage of the trial. They were even allowed to refer to hearsay and propaganda materials as evidence.
5. The pride of Bangladesh’s legal system, the CrPC Act of 1898 (Code of Criminal Procedure) – the meticulous legal procedure through which an evidence or a witness must go through to prove credibility before the court, was completely ignored to allow the prosecution to present false evidences and shoddy shady witnesses.
6. The defence were not allowed to recall the state’s Investigation Officer (IO) to question about contradictions even after repeated requests and written applications from the defence counsels. As a result, the sheer volume of inconsistencies between witness testimony and IO’s account remains completely unresolved and unanswered in this case.
7. The defence were not allowed to effectively cross examine prosecution witnesses, when such questioning adversely affected witness credibility. Moreover, the judges intervened regularly to sabotage cross examination by the defence.
8. The defence were not allowed to appeal against interlocutory orders given by the tribunal to any higher authority/court. This means that, although the final judgment of the tribunal could be challenged at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, the defence could not appeal against other orders passed by the court – which is a violation of state’s own legal standards. For example, though the limitation of defence witnesses and not being able to cross-examine the IO was particularly damaging to the accused, the defence was not allowed to appeal against such damaging orders.
9. Each and every review petition that was submitted by the defence was discarded without giving a second thought. Furthermore, the so called “review” was done by the same judges who gave the order in the first place.
There is no court in the world that is remotely concerned with delivering justice would be so blind, unfair, and politically biased.