FORMER Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam was shifted to a prison cell at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University nearly four hours after he was sent to jail Wednesday on charges of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
Rejecting Ghulam Azam’s bail prayer, the International Crimes Tribunal ordered to send him to Dhaka Central Jail in connection with 62 specific charges pressed by the prosecution on January 5.
Hearing on the charge framing against the ex-Jamaat chief will be held on February 15.
Azam was sitting in the dock during Wednesday’s court proceedings after his counsels produced him there complying with Monday’s order of the tribunal with a hope that the 90-year-old could be freed on bail.
At the time of accepting charges against Azam on January 9, the Tribunal had asked his chief counsel Barrister Abdur Razzak, also a top Jamaat leader, to produce the ex-Jamaat ameer before it by 10:30am on Wednesday saying it would otherwise issue an arrest warrant against him.
Security was beefed up on and outside of the tribunal premises hours before Ghulam Azam was scheduled to appear before it.
Ghulam Azam entered the tribunal building at 9:48am by a green SUV.
The tribunal first dealt with Ghulam Azam’s bail petition submitted Tuesday. He had sought bail on medical and old age grounds, saying that he is almost 90 and suffering from several old-age complications.
Opposing bail for Ghulam Azam, the prosecution lawyers asked the court to send him to jail custody considering the large number of allegations he is facing.
Around 11:30am, the three-judge ICT headed by its Chairman Justice Nizamul Huq turned down the bail prayer and ordered to send Ghulam Azam to jail.
The tribunal also directed the prosecution to submit a copy of formal charge and other relevant documents to the tribunal registrar office by Thursday so that the defence could collect those on Sunday.
After the day’s proceedings ended, Ghulam Azam was taken to ICT custody on the ground floor where he waited for a prison van from Dhaka Central Jail to arrive, our correspondent who covered the event reported.
Around the noon, a prison van took Ghulam Azam to the jail from the ICT.
Azam’s son former Brig Gen Abdullahil Aman Azmi submitted a petition to the jail authorities for treatment of his father at a hospital.
“In their petition, Ghulam Azam’s family said he is suffering from different old age complexities. So, we consulted doctors who suggested shifting him to a hospital,” Ashraful Islam Khan, inspector general (prisons), told The Daily Star.
Asked how long Ghulam Azam might need to be in hospital, he said they need to follow up on this.
The move to bring Ghulam Azam to trial marks a major step towards fulfilling a key electoral pledge of the Awami League-led grand alliance, which secured a landslide victory in the 2008 general elections, to try people responsible for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
Wednesday’s development brings to spotlight again Azam, who has allegedly been one of the leading persons who actively helped Pakistani occupation forces’ attempts to foil the birth of Bangladesh.
He was hyperactive against the Liberation War and became a symbol of alleged war criminals. In 1971, he said: “Pakistan is the house of Islam for the world Muslims. Therefore, Jamaat activists don’t justify living if Pakistan disintegrated.”
Incumbent Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Nayebe Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, assistant secretaries general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Kader Molla; and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury have already been arrested on similar charge.
The prosecution on January 5 resubmitted 62 charges against Ghulam Azam before the tribunal.
In the charges, six counts were for conspiring with the Pakistani occupation force to commit crimes against humanity. Three counts were for planning to commit crimes and atrocities, 28 counts were for incitement, 24 counts for complicity, and one specific charge for murder and torture during the 1971 Liberation War.
The charges against Ghulam Azam also include leading mass murder of intellectuals on December 14, 1971, and killing 38 prisoners of Brahmanbaria jail.
He was also held responsible by the prosecutors for all atrocities committed across the country between March 25, 1971, and December 16, 1971.
Earlier on December 12, the prosecution pressed formal charges containing 52 counts of crimes against humanity against Ghulam Azam and sought for his arrest.
But the tribunal on December 26 sent the charges back to the prosecution saying that the charges were not “properly arranged and classified”. It also ordered the chief prosecutor to reorganise and rearrange the charges in a “systematic form” and resubmit by January 5.
According to history, Jamaat under Ghulam Azam’s leadership opposed the country’s independence during the Liberation War and cooperated with the Pakistani occupation army in committing heinous crimes.
Although Ghulam Azam stepped down from the highest post [ameer] of his party over a decade ago, his followers still consider him as the supreme spiritual leader.
Meanwhile, different organisations including Sector Commanders’ Forum, Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad and Slogan Ekattur demonstrated in front of the tribunal for nearly one-and-a-half-hour demanding immediate arrest and trial of Ghulam Azam.
They also formed a human chain and held a rally there to press home their demands.