Death row war crimes convict Salauddin Quader Chowdhury on Monday submitted a petition with the Supreme Court (SC), pleading to summon eight fresh witnesses, including five Pakistanis, to testify for him in the review hearing.
The BNP leader's lawyer Md Huzzatul Islam submitted the petition at the appeal section of the apex court. He filed this fresh plea after completion of the timeframe for filing the review.
State counsels, including Attorney General (AG) Mahbubey Alam, are saying that filing of such petition at the review state is unprecedented. They find no scope of recording statements of new witnesses at this stage of the trial.
They termed it a ploy to thwart the trial process, which they were doing from the very beginning of the trial.
Salauddin, on October 14, appealed to the SC to review its verdict that upheld his death penalty for committing crimes against humanity during the country's Liberation War in 1971.
During Salauddin's trial at the International Crimes Tribunal, the defence's list of witnesses included Beximco Group Vice Chairman Salman F Rahman and Justice Hasnain. Both of them, however, did not testify.
The defence then had produced three witnesses-former diplomat Adbul Momen, Nizam Ahmed, who had studied in college and university with Chowdhury, and Asia Pacific University's Trustee Board member Qayum Reza Chowdhury, a cousin of the war crimes convict.
Now his lawyer has filed a list of eight new witnesses including five Pakistanis. The five Pakistani citizens are: Mohammad Mian Soomroo, former prime minister of the country; Ishak Khan Khakwani, former rail minister; Amber Haroon Saigol, chairman of Dawn Group; Munib Arjamand Khan, a social worker; and Riaz Ahmed Noon, grandson of Viqarunnisa Noon.
The three others are Osman Siddik, former ambassador of USA to Fiji, Shamim Hasnain, a High Court judge of Bangladesh, and his mother Zinnat Ara Begum.
According to the law, both the prosecution and defence have to submit their respective lists of witnesses before the court within three weeks of indictment.
"But Salauddin filed a mammoth list of 4,500 witnesses after the conclusion of recording depositions of prosecution witnesses. A single name was repeated as many as 105 times. As the court pointed that out, they again took time to file a list with 'reasonable number of witnesses," said Prosecutor Tureen Afroz.
She said, "At first the defence counsels said they would file a list of 40 witnesses but eventually gave the names of 15. From that list, the court allowed five to turn up before the court for Salauddin. But the defence even failed to produce those five."
"They could have easily produced one or two from this fresh list of witnesses. But they did not do that. Now they are doing this only to foil the trial process," Tureen added.
Khandker Mahbub Hossain, principal counsel for Salauddin, told reporters that his client was not in Bangladesh from March 29, 1971 to April 1974 as he went to Pakistan for studying at Panjab University.
But the AG office submitted the original copy of the Daily Pakistan, which reported that Salauddin got bullet wound, as the freedom fighters shot him when he had been fleeing in January 1972.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that filing of a petition to record depositions of new witnesses at the review state is unprecedented.