''He calls me 'Halum', my lord''

War crimes court cracks up in the second half of the proceedings at the war crimes tribunal

Published : 23 Jan 2012, 08:19 AM
Updated : 23 Jan 2012, 08:19 AM
Dhaka, Jan 23 (bdnews24.com) —Zingers flew in the second half of the proceedings at the International Crimes Tribunal on Monday once the prosecution began replying to the defence.
The war crimes tribunal, set up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, heard arguments of BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's defence throughout the day.
Prosecutor Zead-Al-Malum was then asked to counter the defence arguments.
At one point of his deliberation, Malum mentioned the accused as "Saka Chowdhury" as is commonly written in Bengali newspapers taking the initials of the BNP MP's first two names.
Justice Nizamul Huq, chairman of the tribunal, stopped him immediately and said, "Although newspapers often refer to him as such, do speak out his full name as Mr Chowdhury does not approve of it."
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's loud boom could be heard from the dock at the back of the courtroom, "Thank you sir, thank you!"
At this point the prosecutor, who has been faced with regular barbs of the feisty MP as he argues the case, complained to the court, "But Salauddin Quader Chowdhury calls me 'Halum', my lord."
There was the booming voice again from back, "What? Halum? No, no never. I never call him that."
The entire court cracked up at this exchange.
The obviously homonymous 'halum' elicited much laughter since it is the Bengali expression for what tigers or lions are supposed to say when they growl before jumping on a prey. The tiger's 'halum' is like the sheep's 'baa'.
But Malum was to face even more embarrassment when the tribunal came back with its queries regarding certain individuals mentioned in the charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
Tribunal member, judge A K M Zaheer Ahmed, reminded him that the tribunal had only a few queries that the prosecutor could not satisfactorily answer.
Malum kept insisting that the prosecution still had the scope to fill in on the gaps there were in its cases, when asked whether certain individuals were alive or dead, especially relating to one Sobhan, a supposed aide to Salauddin Quader, as mentioned in the first charge.
At one point judge Zaheer Ahmed said, "It is a very simple query. Is this Sobhan alive or dead?"
According to the charge, Sobhan was Salauddin Quader's aide and had abducted individuals, apparently at his behest.
The judge asked why then there were no charges against this Sobhan who was actively involved in the abduction if he was still alive.
Malum then said the prosecution had dropped seven charges against Salauddin Quader because it did not consider them legally authentic enough. "But the 25 that we have brought are solid and we will be able to answer all your queries."
Zaheer Ahmed returned, "If this is the situation with your first charge, I wonder what those seven were like."
At this Malum reacted saying that such remarks would be widely reported in the media and the news outlets would be rife with news that he was unqualified as a prosecutor and so forth.
Malum then went on about how certain media outlets were carrying reports that reflected adversely upon the tribunal as well as the prosecution.
"Although a large portion of the media report correctly, there are a handful that have a rather negative tone."
Justice Nizamul Huq reassured him that the media was there only to cooperate and there was nothing to be scared of.
Judge Zaheer Ahmed said, "But the media is the mirror of the society. And what difference does it make if one or two houses report negatively?"
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher