AN old, very ill prosecution witness, lying in bed and in tears, narrated before the International Crimes Tribunal how his wife was raped in the presence of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee in 1971, The Daily Star reports.
He told the court how a girl was born following the rape, how his wife had to leave the country for good, how he had to live his life without seeing his wife ever again and how Sayedee converted him to Islam during the Liberation War.
“It was sometime between 4:00pm and 4:30pm. I was not home,” said the 81-year-old from his bed covered in a blanket.
“When I returned home, my wife told me she had been raped,” he said in an emotionally choked voice. She told him that she was feeling “intolerable pain” and she could not talk much. They got married only a few days before the war began.
“He who converted you to Islam came here. You don’t worry about me, just escape,” he quoted his wife as saying.
When prosecutors asked who had converted him to Islam, the witness said it was Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq finished recording the deposition and cross-examination of the 23rd witness Wednesday in a case against Sayedee regarding charges of crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War of 1971.
Sayedee, nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, is among six Jamaat and two BNP leaders who are facing war crimes charges at the tribunal. He was present at the tribunal throughout Wednesday’s proceedings.
The Daily Star is not divulging the name of the witness to protect the witness’s family from any social consequences they might have to endure.
The witness from Hoglabunia of Pirojpur had begun his deposition on Tuesday but the proceedings were adjourned as he fell sick while testifying.
On Wednesday, after the witness resumed his testimony, prosecutor Rana Dasgupta had to go through the deposition slowly as the witness, too ill to sit up, went through the testimony and cross-examination attended by a ward boy and a doctor from the Police Hospital.
The tribunal had to take several short breaks during the 49-minute deposition so that the witness could regain his composure.
In his testimony, he said he along with one Krishna Saha and Dr Ganesh Saha was converted to Islam in a mosque. He was given a Muslim name and Krishna Saha was given the name Ali Akbar.
He said even converting to Islam did not save Krishna Saha. He was killed within days, he said.
“Delawar had told us: ‘You’ll live if you become Muslims; otherwise you’ll die’,” the witness said.
Once the Liberation War ended, the witness returned to his original religion while Dr Ganesh Saha, who also had to convert to Islam, fled to India.
The witness told the court that months after his wife was raped, she gave birth to a girl in the Bengali month of Agrahayan.
“People used to insult my wife,” he said.
The witness asked his brother-in-law for advice on what they could do. “He said, ‘Let me take her to India.’ And my wife went to India,” the witness said.
“I haven’t seen her since. I don’t know where she is. I did not remarry,” he told the court.
Earlier, the witness had said, “Danesh Mollah, Sekander Sikder, Moslem Maulana, Atahar Ali and Delawar” formed the peace committee in Parerhaat of Pirojpur during the Liberation War.
Besides the peace committee “they” also formed the razakar [collaborators’] force, he said.
“He used to introduce himself as Delawar Sikder,” said the witness. “I did not hear it before, but now I hear he calls himself Sayedee.”
Recalling the days of 1971, he said he and others used to hide whenever the collaborators went to their village.
One day, he recalled, nine people were abducted from his village Hoglabunia. They were never to be seen again.
Among them were Tarani Sikder, Banikanta Sikder, Nirmal Sikder, Haralal Malakar, Prakash Sikder and Nirmal Sikder.
After the deposition, defence counsels Mizanul Islam and Manjur Ahmed Ansari cross-examined the witness.
Responding to their questions, the witness said the collaborators came to his home only once during the war. And he used to spend most of his time in the house during the war after converting to Islam and until Krishna Saha was killed, after which he used to spend his days in hiding.
At one stage of the cross-examination, defence counsel Mizanul Islam asked the witness whether Danesh Mollah, Sekander Sikder along with Delawar Sikder (son of a Rasul Sikder) formed the peace committee and whether that Delawar Sikder, along with another collaborator named Razzaq, had been killed after the Liberation War.
While the witness’s answer was inaudible from this correspondent’s seat in court, prosecutor Rana Dasgupta, at a press briefing afterwards, said that the witness had said Delawar Hossain Sayedee, who was present in court, was the same Delawar Sikder who had converted him to Islam.
However, Sayedee’s defence lawyers, after the proceedings, told journalists that the witness had admitted that there was another Delawar Sikder in Pirojpur in 1971.
Counsel Mizanul Islam claimed that it proved that Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee and the Delawar Sikder whom the witness had referred to in his deposition were different individuals.
The 24th prosecution witness is scheduled to give his deposition today at the tribunal.