Syed Mohammad Qaisar along with his cohorts and the Pakistani army had launched a synchronised attack on 22 villages in Brahmanbaria that left 108 people, mostly Hindus, dead on November 15, 1971, a prosecution witness testified yesterday.
Golam Noor, a former student leader who motivated freedom fighters during the Liberation War in 1971, said Qaisar and his cohorts had tortured his father and elder brother, taken away his brother and burned their houses on June 23.
Although his brother was released after Qaisar had received Tk 8,000 in ransom, his father died after two weeks due to the torture, Noor, 13th prosecution witness in the case against Qaisar, told the International Crimes Tribunal-2.
Noor, who was in India and learned about it from his mother, brother and sister-in-law and others, was seen sobbing several times during his one-and-a-half-hour testimony.
Tajul Islam, a member of Qaisar Bahini, which was allegedly formed by Qaisar, on March 30 also linked Qaisar to the mass killing in Brahmanbaria. As a prosecution witness, Tajul testified that he had accompanied Qaisar in both the incidents.
Qaisar, a state minister of the Ershad regime, faces 16 charges including genocide committed in Brahmanbaria and Habiganj during the war. The 73-year-old accused, however, pleaded not guilty.
Noor, a resident of Haripur village under Nasirnagar in Brahmanbaria, said he was a leader of the East Pakistan Chhatra League at Dhaka University and formed Chhatra Sangram Parishad in his village after the historic speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 7, 1971.
In mid-April 1971, Peace Committee, an anti-liberation force, was formed in Nasirnagar at a meeting of Muslim League leaders held at the home of Manjur Ali, a Convention Muslim League leader and maternal uncle of Qaisar, said Noor.
Qaisar was present at the meeting and was appointed an adviser to the committee, said 65-year-old Noor, adding that under the leadership of Qaisar, “Qaisar Bahini” was formed at that meeting.
Noor, also former chairman of Nasirnagar upazila parishad, said on his way to India on April 27, he heard that Qaisar, his force and the Pakistani army had attacked Madhabpur Bazar and torched and looted some 100/150 houses and shops.
The witness said he had heard from India in the last part of June that Qaisar along with his cohorts attacked their houses and looked for him. They had tortured his elder brother Golam Rouf and father Golam Rasul before burning their houses, he added.
Noor said he had joined Bangladesh army in November, received training in India and returned to Bangladesh and subsequently his village in February 1972.
“From my mother, brother [Rouf] and sister-in-law, I learned that Qaisar and his accomplices stormed and burned our houses down around 10:30am on June 23. They also tortured my brother and father,” said Noor.
They had also taken away his brother Rouf, the witness said, adding, when his maternal uncle and father-in-law of his brother had gone out to look for him, they learned that Rouf was taken to Qaisar’s house at Noapara in Madhabpur, Habiganj.
His relatives had gone to Qaisar’s house the following day and requested him earnestly to release Rouf in vain, said Noor.
After five to six days, his relatives went to Qaisar’s maternal uncle and requested him to take step for Rouf’s release, Noor said, adding that Qaisar released his brother after his relatives had given him Tk 8,000 and a letter from his uncle.
Noor further said he had learned from his family that his father died due to the torture two weeks later. “I also saw torture marks in my brother’s body,” he added.
“From India and after my return, I heard that Pakistani army, Qaisar, his force and Razakars attacked 22 villages in Nasirnagar around 7:30am, looted the houses before burning those down and killed 108 people, mostly Hindus,” said Noor.
The witness also brought and showed two pieces of corrugated iron sheets of their houses, which were burned during the attack, to the judges and sought justice for the crimes.
After his testimony, Qaisar’s lawyer SM Shahjahan asked him three questions before the three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam adjourned the proceedings until Sunday.
Noor is set to face further cross-examination on that day.
Earlier in the day, the tribunal completed recording cross-examination of Mohammad Israil, fifth prosecution witness in the case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdus Subhan, and adjourned the proceedings until May 20.