Update August 9, 2015

Dhaka 9-50 am, 25-May, 2020

Zafrullah seeks unconditional apology for contempt of court

Mirajul Moin Joy

Zafrullah seeks unconditional apology for contempt of court

Zafrullah seeks unconditional apology for contempt of court

9 August 2015, Nirapad News: Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury on Sunday offered unconditional apology to a war crimes tribunal for his comment on June 10 that drew contempt of court proceedings against him.

Sayed Ahmed Raza, a counsel for Zafrullah, submitted the mercy petition before the International Crimes Tribunal-2 this morning.

The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan fixed tomorrow for hearing on the matter.

Zafrullah, also a freedom fighter and public health activist, was present before the tribunal.

In presence of his lawyers, the video footage of his June 10 comment was shown on a large projector inside the court room.

Zafrullah faced contempt charges for criticising a verdict of the tribunal on Bangladesh-based UK journalist David Bergman last December, and he was sentenced to one hour’s imprisonment in the courtroom and fined Tk 5,000 on June 10 for this.

On that very day, he told reporters, “Today’s contempt of court verdict is a proof of the mental illness of the three judges… Ensuring justice is not possible if the judges can’t take criticism. When they can’t stand criticism and lack rationality, they hide themselves under the cover of law.”

The show cause notice came after three freedom fighters and two organisers of the Gonojagoron Mancha filed a petition seeking contempt proceedings against Zafrullah for the June 10 remarks.

On December 2 last year, the tribunal found Bergman, editor (special reports) of English daily the New Age, guilty of contempt for writing two blog posts in January 2013 on the verdict in the case against convicted war criminal Abul Kalam Azad. The journalist was sentenced to imprisonment till rising of the court that day and fined Tk 5,000.

The daily Prothom Alo on December 20 last year ran a report under the headline “50 people express concern over Bergman’s punishment”. The signatories of a statement said the order would curb freedom of expression, according to the report. One of the signatories Khushi Kabir later held back from the statement.

When the tribunal asked 49 people to explain their statement, 26 signatories apologised unconditionally. The court exonerated them from the charge, but initiated contempt proceedings against 23 as it was not convinced with their replies.

On June 10, the tribunal pardoned 22 signatories as they regretted their action and “were not well aware of the consequences of the action.” But the court punished Zafrullah as he committed the same offence twice.

Earlier, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 had found his comment on the war crimes trail contemptuous, but pardoned him with a serious caution.

Under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, a contempt convict cannot challenge the order of a tribunal. But the High Court recently observed that a convict can do so.

A freedom fighter, Zafrullah Chowdhury, along with Dr MA Mobin, visited the frontlines of the war during Bangladesh’s War of Independence, and began treating wounded freedom fighters. With the help of Bangladesh’s government in exile, they established Bangladesh Field Hospital on the eastern border near the Tripura and Comilla districts. In 1972, the field hospital was renamed Gonoshasthaya Kendra or People’s Health Centre.

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