The Jamaat-e-Islami’s acting secretary general, ATM Azharul Islam, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon, a couple of hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 issued an arrest warrant for his suspected involvement in war crimes during the War of Independence in 1971.
The Detective Branch of the police, on receiving the order from the tribunal, arrested Azharul from his house on Elephant Road at about 2.15pm, Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s deputy commissioner Masudur Rahman told New Age.
He said that Azharul was taken to the DB’s office immediately and kept in custody.
He will be produced before the tribunal on Thursday, said a highly placed DMP official.
Azharul, son of Nazir Hossain and Rahima Khatun of Lohanipara under Badarganj in Rangpur, was the president of the Rangpur unit of the Islami Chattra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, in 1971.
The tribunal of Justice Nizamul Huq, Justice Anwarul Haque and judge AKM Zahir Ahmed ordered the police to arrest Azharul at around 11:45am in response to the prosecution’s plea that investigation against him was going on and he might hinder the investigation if he is not taken into custody.
The prosecution has raised allegations of murder, mass killings, loot, arson, rape, forced conversion to Islam and deportation against Azharul, the 11th war crimes suspect.
A large number of police, intelligent agency personnel and Rapid Action Battalion members Azharul’s cordoned house from Wednesday morning till his arrest in the afternoon.
Moving the petition, prosecutor Nurjahan Mukta told the tribunal that the prosecution seeks Azharul’s arrest as the investigators have already collected enough evidence and documents to prove his involvement in crimes against humanity committed in 1971.
Nurjahan said that Azharul, being influential as the secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami, has been trying to destroy evidence of war crimes at home and abroad.
She said that Azharul, with the help of the Pakistani occupation army, abducted many teachers, including the wife of a teacher of Carmichael College in Rangpur, and took them to a place near Domdoma Bridge and shot them dead in April 1971.
Nurjahan also told Tribunal-1 that they had come to know that Azharul was directly involved in abducting a noted lawyer who was an organizer of the liberation war, in late March 1971, and in torturing him brutally in Rangpur Cantonment’s torture cell. Azharul had shot 11 persons, including the lawyer, to death at Dokhiganj cremation ground in the first part of April 1971.
The investigators have got evidence of Azharul’s direct involvement in killing about 1,200 innocent and unarmed people, including women and children, in Azharul’s own area Jharuar Bil, Padmapukur and the adjacent areas under Badarganj upazila in Rangpur, looting and setting fire to numerous houses in mid-April 1971, the prosecutor alleged.
Besides Azharul, with the help of his local cohorts and the Pakistani occupation army, had shot dead 11 persons, including a pregnant woman, at Dhappara under Badarganj in Rangpur in mid-April 1971, she told the tribunal.
Nurjahan said that Azharul, carrying the Pakistani national flag in his motorcycle during the liberation war, used to go to Rangpur Cantonment where he used to plan to kill pro-liberation people of different areas in Rangpur and then execute his plan.
She said that Azharul had also regularly visited the Rangpur Town Hall, which the soldiers and officers of the occupation army used for entertainment in 1971.
The prosecutor sought an arrest order against Azharul for the sake of the security of the witnesses as there were allegations that they had been receiving threats from the war crime suspects.
The tribunal ordered the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s commissioner to arrest Azharul, take care of his health and produce him before the tribunal within 24 hours of his arrest.
A defence lawyer, Farid Uddin Khan, told reporters that the prosecution has brought baseless and imaginary allegations against Azharul who was earlier arrested on 19 September, 2011 in connection with a clash with the police at Kakrail on September 19 last year. He was freed on bail in all the five cases last week.
Azharul was kept under house arrest and was not allowed to say Eid prayers at any Eid congregation, and so it was not possible for him to threaten the witnesses, said the defence lawyer, adding that the allegations were nothing but an attempt to make the Jamaat a leader-less organization.
Those who were arrested earlier for their suspected involvement in war crimes are Jamaat’s former chief Ghulam Azam, amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, nayeb-e-amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee, assistant secretary generals Abdul Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, executive council member Mir Quasem Ali and BNP lawmaker Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
A former BNP lawmaker and minister, Abdul Alim, is the lone accused enjoying bail now.
Only war crimes suspect Abul Kalam Azad, who was known as Bachchu Razakar in Faridpur in 1971, managed to evade arrest and has reportedly fled the country before the police could reach his house to arrest him on April 3, after a warrant was issued by ICT-2.
-With New Age input