'No foreign lawyers for Jamaat leaders'

Ref: The Bangladesh Bar Council has turned down an appeal to appoint foreign lawyers for the top five Jamaat-e-Islami leaders detained on charges of crimes against humanity, the council chairman has said.

Mahbubey Alam, also the attorney general, on Saturday told that the plea filed by lawyers of the Jamaat leaders on July 17 was turned down as the council ‘cannot provide certificate’ to anyone other than Bangladeshi lawyers.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, executive council member Delwar Hossain Sayedee and two assistant secretaries-general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Muhammad Abdul Quader Molla are now in jail as they are facing charges for crimes against humanity perpetrated during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.

Charges against Sayedee have been submitted to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) and a hearing on it is scheduled for August 10. Investigations against others are underway.

BNP leaders Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Abdul Alim, a minister of Ziaur Rahman’s cabinet, are also facing war crime charges.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed on Tuesday, however, said that accused cannot apply for appointing foreign lawyers, “but a foreign lawyer can move on his or her own for any accused”.

The attorney general said: “The Bar Council has no jurisdiction to issue certificate to anyone other than Bangladeshis, and the certificates are given only after passing the examinations. So, in this case, no foreign lawyer can practice in any court of the country.”

He said the council considered these issues and reached a consensus to reject the appeal, “in line with rule 42 of the President’s Order of 1972”.

The resolution of the meeting, when one but all the 15 members were present, said: “Since the Bar Council is a regulated organisation, there’s no scope to approve any such appeal.”

The only member absent was ill, he added.

Lawyer Mohammad Tajul Islam and his associates submitted the application to the vice-chairman of the Bar Council.

The application was also signed by barrister Munshi Ahsan Kabir, barrister Tanveer Ahmed Al-Amin and advocate Farid Uddin Ahmed.

Jamaat wants the foreign lawyers as “the rules of War Crimes are new in Bangladesh law. There is no example of such cases. Also, the country has no lawyers with experience on war crimes,” a press statement bearing Tajul’s signature said.

“According to the ICT Rule No. 42, appointment of foreign lawyers is applicable in such a situation to ensure meaningful and true justice.”

It further stated, “On behalf of the convicted Jamaat leaders, senior lawyers of Bangladesh Supreme Court were requested to advocate their cases, but they declined.”

“Later, Steven QC, the lawyer of Yugoslav president Shesnavodan Miloshovich, John Cameg, defence laywr of the Sierra Leone War Crime Tribunal and the chief prosecutor of the Bosnian War Crime Tribunal Tobi Cadman were contacted and they agreed.”

“These lawyers are now working as our advisors and through this application, we want to bring them here as pleaders,” Ahsan Kabir had told

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