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He was very much present in Bangladesh

War criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury claimed at the International Crimes Tribunal that he had been in erstwhile West Pakistan during March 29, 1971–April 20, 1974 to dismiss all the charges brought against him by the prosecution. The three defence witnesses echoed him.

However, the tribunal in its verdict on October 1, 2013 mentioned that the defence had “miserably failed to prove its plea by documentary evidence that the accused stayed in West Pakistan during whole period of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.”

Despite this, Salauddin’s counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain mentioned about the same information during hearing on the appeal at the Supreme Court against the death penalty given by the tribunal to seek acquittal of his client.

An influential former BNP lawmaker from Raozan of Chittagong, Salauddin testified at the tribunal as the first defence witness and claimed that he had not been present at the time when the occurrences took place in Chittagong.

Salauddin said he had gone to West Pakistan to take higher education at Punjab University. To prove his statement, he placed three witnesses – Nizamuddin, his schoolfriend, Qaiyum Reza Chowdhury, his first cousin, and Abdul Momen Chowdhury, husband of Qaiyum’s wife’s sister. Salman F Rahman was also made a witness, but he avoided appearing before the tribunal by staying in Saudi Arabia at that time.

Qaiyum claimed that he had dropped Salauddin at Tejgaon Airport on March 29, 1971 for flying to Karachi. Momen stated that in 1971, he had met Salauddin at the office of his batch-mate Ashiqur Rahman for the first time.

But their statement was considered contradictory by the tribunal since Qaiyum said he had met Momen at Ashiqur’s office but Momen said he met Qaiyum at his residence. “The above contradiction as to place of meeting between the witnesses is not ignorable which has, at least, weakened the plea of alibi.

Moreover, the tribunal verdict states that the defence did not produce any travel or residential documents to show the date of so-called visit to West Pakistan and staying therein during the war.

It says that the defence submitted some documents before it, in violation of the law, at the fag end of defence argument and “intentionally refrained from proving those documents by recalling defence witnesses.”

On the other hand, the tribunal considered the prosecution documents placed to prove that Salauddin had all along present at his father’s residence named Goods Hill at Chittagong during the war.

The investigation officer of the case submitted a paper clipping of the daily Pakistan dated September 29, 1971 that says the son of Fazlul Quader sustained severe injury in an attack by miscreants on the car while the driver was killed. He was provided treatment in hospital.

Then deputy inspector general of Special Branch in East Pakistan in a fortnightly report of political situation, prepared on October 2, mentioned: “On September 20, 1971 evening, rebels fired at the car of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury…They also threw a hand grenade in front of the car. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was injured and his driver was [sic] killed.”

To substantiate the occurrence, the prosecution examined one doctor who had been on duty at Chittagong Medical College Hospital in 1971. Dr AKM Shafiullah, then assistant registrar at Surgical Unit 1, said around 10/10:30pm in late September, on getting a call from his ward, he rushed to the hospital and saw there many people including army and police.

He also saw Salauddin sustaining severe injury in his leg was lying in a bed. He said Salauddin had been given proper treatment from their hospital and thereafter heard that he had been taken to Dhaka or abroad for better treatment. Dr Shafiullah also identified Salauddin in the dock.

The tribunal found the prosecution submissions as “most authenticated and reliable evidence to hold that accused Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was very much present in Bangladesh during the War of Liberation. Thus, the above mentioned unshaken evidence have totally destroyed the plea of alibi taken by the defence.”

Besides these evidence, 14 prosecution witnesses testified at the tribunal that they had seen Salauddin accompanied by the Pakistan Army and razakars.

In order to commit genocide, they had directed attacks upon the unarmed people of Hindu community of different villages of the locality while some of the witnesses had seen him at Goods Hill while they were abducted and tortured therein.

The People’s Inquiry Commission, formed in 1995 by Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee under the leadership of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam, also mentioned about the presence of Salauddin at Goods Hill based on a Dainik Bangla report published on January 8, 1972.

The report said: “Hundreds of students were tortured at Goods Hill and on July 17, 1971, student leader Faruq was killed by Salauddin Quader. From March 26 until December 16, there was always a platoon the occupation army deployed in the Goods Hill.”