Sunday, 10 March 2013

Selective compassion of the Bangladeshi press and Shahbag sympathisers

Notice the pattern: if a relative of a prosecution witness in the Ghulam Azam case is killed, the "liberal secularist" press will interview his family, uncles, aunties, neighbours; they'll even talk to cats or dogs that they think may have witnessed the murder. And they will happily blame it all on Jamaat without bothering to investigate any other potential motives for the murder.

This, for the Daily Star, is the big news of today:

Law enforcers are clueless about the motive behind the murder of Ahmed Miraz, brother of a prosecution witness in war crimes trial, a day after Miraz was found dead near Kuril flyover in the capital. Victim’s elder brother Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul, who testified against alleged war criminal and ex-Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam, has expressed a deep sense of insecurity following his brother’s murder. A freedom fighter and noted musician, he has sought security from the state for him and his family. “I feel insecure and so do my wife and son,” he said while talking to The Daily Star at his Moghbazar house yesterday. He pointed fingers at the defeated forces of 1971 for the murder of his brother.

The story also mentions the 'mysterious death' of a prosecution witness in the Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (SQC) case; the Daily Star reported the story in detail a few weeks back:

Junu's family members said he had been threatened with dire consequences many times if he testified against the BNP leader. They alleged Junu had been murdered for giving testimony against Salauddin. Junu's daughter Shamima said there were injury marks in her father's chin.
However, Abdul Latif, officer-in-charge of Khulshi Police Station, told The Daily Star that they were chasing leads to the death.
“We will take steps after receiving the post-mortem report.”

Interestingly, the New Age (which is taking a more non-partisan line towards the ICT than the Daily Star)  reported that the witness died of a heart attack. What really happened? It's difficult to know amid these contradicting reports. What is interesting here is the blatant bias of the Daily Star: when the defence witness in Sayedee's case, Shukho Ranjan Bali, was alleged to have been abducted by intelligence personnel outside the ICT, the Daily Star didn't bother investigating the allegations. Instead, they ran a few stories with carefully chosen titles such as 'It's Jamaat's drama', which parrots the prosecution's version of events i.e. that they are a fabrication by the defence.

It was David Bergman who, to his great credit, took the allegations seriously, and conducted an interview with Bali's wife, where she not only corroborated the abduction story but also said that the prosecution wanted Bali to give false testimony at the trial.

The paper Bergman works for, the New Age, also carried a story on concerns from the HRW regarding Bali's disappearance. I quote here an excerpt from the HRW report:

Justice Nizamul Huq, then the chairman of the trial chamber sitting on the case, told Human Rights Watch that he had asked the prosecution at the ICT to verify all allegations of irregularities, including the disappearance, even though the prosecution is an interested party in the trials. He acknowledged that this was not the normal practice in Bangladesh and provided no legal or practical reason for this decision.

Although he vociferously denied any bias against the defense, Justice Huq had a member of the prosecution team and the deputy registrar in his chambers during the entire interview with Human Rights Watch, as he had in previous meetings. Justice Huq has since resigned as chairman of the ICT following publication by The Economist of intercepted email and phone conversations showing that there was prohibited contact between Huq, the prosecution, government officials, and an external adviser.

Human Rights Watch noted that Bali’s disappearance followed prosecution claims that they were unable to produce certain prosecution witnesses, including Bali. As a result, the prosecution applied for and was granted a motion allowing them to put into evidence written testimony without either direct or cross-examination. A defense challenge to this motion, which included evidence from government safe-house logbooks showing that witnesses were available to testify, was rejected by the court without a serious investigation.

How can anyone in their right mind think these trials are anything but a joke after reading this?

Amusingly, many Shahbag sympathisers are foaming over the murder of Ahmed Miraz, with some accusing Bergman of being biased because he does not seem to be conducting any investigations this time round. Have any of them stopped to think that the police are clearly actively investigating the murder (as they are investigating in the case of the SQC witness), while they dismissed the allegation of Bali's disapperance as (yet another) fabrication by Jamaat? Then again: these people don't seem to be too bothered by abductions, lies and fabrications - as long as they're directed against Jamaat.

Also note that major riots of JI and clashes with the police happened in the wake of Bali's disappearance and the refusal of the court to do anything about it, in November. It's important to keep this in mind in order to understand the underlying causes of the violence we're now witnessing.

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