Sakti Saha, the son of a 1971 martyr, gave witness in the trial of Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mojaheed yesterday. By all accounts, it was a heartbreaking moment, as Saha broke down while describing his father’s death. Several newspapers headlined and highlighted this incident.
But what got lost was what Saha did not say. And the fact that is not noticed today will make any teeth-gnashing and sloganeering the day Mojaheed’s sentence comes out quite moot.
Saha is trying to help the prosecution prove that Mojaheed murdered Saha’s father, Narayan Saha. According to Daily Star, here is the crucial part of his testimony (italics mine):
“At that time, there was a revolver in Mojaheed’s hand and the Biharis were carrying rifles. They tied my father Upendra Narayan Saha and some others,” said Sakti.
“When my mother and sister begged my father’s life offering their gold ornaments to them, they said my father would be released. But instead of releasing him, they lined up 10-12 people at Shree Angan,” he said adding, “Then Mojaheed made some signal and sounds of gunshots were heard.”
“Bullets hit my father and others and they collapsed. After half an hour, I went there and found my father’s body lying on the ground,” said emotion-chocked[sic] Sakti.
Bullets hit my father? Who speaks in the passive voice at a time like this? Not “Mojaheed shot my father.” Not “Mojaheed signalled the Biharis to shoot my father.” And this is not just Daily Star being Daily Star, the other newspapers, both Bangla and English, have similar reports.
Besides, “sounds of gunshot were heard” and then “bullets hit my father.” The first part sounds like the testimony of a man who is hiding and cannot see what is going on, but is close enough to hear. The second part sounds like the testimony of a man who is hiding and can see the victims, but not the shooters. A direct eyewitness to a gun homicide never comments on the sound of gunshot; he says “I saw X get hit by a bullet and fall down.”
Given the extremely low bar that Bangladesh’s ICT has set for pronouncing guilty verdicts, this may not be a problem. The Tribunal’s approach so far has been that if you have affiliation with Jamaat, Shibir, or any such organizations in 1970, you are a bad person. These affiliations can be proven by testimony, newspaper clippings, hearsay, anything.
Murders, rapes, destruction of property, and all bad things, can also be proven similarly.
So the only test is whether the bad person was present when the bad thing took place. The only acquittal that we have seen so far, regarding Abdul Quader Mollah in Charge 4, took place because the prosecution could not conclusively prove that he was present when the bad thing took place.
In this particular matter, this may not be a problem. Saha clearly puts Mojaheed in the scene of the crime. That would not suffice in a normal court of law, or even a normal Bangladeshi court, but of course, this is neither.