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David Bergman: the hired henchman of war criminals

দৈনিক জামালপুর

প্রকাশিত: ৯ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০২১  

How it all began for Bergman:

The International crimes tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTBD) has endured relentless criticism from the inglorious perpetrators and their allies since its formation in 2010. A myriad of individuals (or “experts” if you like), placed high on the social ladder of course, jumping at even the tiniest of opportunities to lend a terse word or two, some more than others really. But perhaps the most prominent and certainly one of the most notorious names on that list appear to be that of one David Bergman’s, a British citizen by birth.

Now it is one thing to express a thought or sing a limerick about something which is happening in front of you, but Mr Bergman has seemingly made it his life’s mission to scrutinize every minuscule detail with regards to the ICTBD’s proceedings. At least that is what the conscious citizens of Bangladesh think so.

This man has free-lanced for several national newspapers in Bangladesh before by proclaiming himself as a journalist. But he operates mainly out of the daily English newspaper called “The New Age”, which is how he is recognized in most circles, although we understand he has previously worked with bdnews24 as well. As to why exactly he left the UK for Bangladesh, on what grounds or what his visa status is for that matter, is a complete mystery to many.

Now while his marriage to Sara Hossain, daughter of Dr Kamal Hossain is no secret, along with the notoriously popular notion amongst some that he a is a “stay-in” husband, Mr Bergman’s unwavering contempt and his overall activities over the past 6 years in Bangladesh has led many to seriously question the eligibility of his stay here in Bangladesh.

Mr Bergman was found guilty of expressing contempt towards the ICTBD and maintaining a blog deemed too “overbearing” and “dictatorial” towards the honorable judges of the ICTBD. The ICTBD-1 penalized him on the 20th of December 2015, although that wasn’t the only time something like this happened to Mr Bergman. ICTBD-2 previously found him guilty of ignominy towards the court. But instead of penalizing him, the tribunal let him off with an ultimatum.

It is worth mentioning that David Bergman was previously part of the roster at Channel 4 news in England. During his tenure, there was a show called “Dispatch” which used to form part of channel 4’s schedule. One of its episodes was dedicated exclusively to notorious war criminal Chowdhury Mueen uddin, who of course had been in hiding in the UK after the Liberation war of Bangladesh.

These days Mr Bergman uses this documentary with Chowdhury Mueen uddin as sort of like a “moral shield”, whenever anyone accuses him of colluding with or supporting war criminals and their representatives. Mr Bergman claims that the documentary, which was telecasted in the early 90s, was actually of his own creation, which is almost a complete lie.

I say “almost” because Mr Bergman was indeed part of the crew who made the documentary. But he was merely in charge of handling the camera equipment, ensuring timely staff meals, and doing any heavy lifting as required. In fact the documentary was compiled largely by one Geeta Saighal, who is a humanitarian worker also living in the UK. Renowned Bangladeshi journalist Mr Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury’s contribution is also noteworthy in the making of the documentary.

During its production some of the footage of the documentary was stolen, for which David is still suspected today. In fact it is rumored that David sold said footage to Chowdhury Mueen uddin at a steep rate.

Mr Abdul Gaffar himself narrowed his eyebrows when queried about David Bergman, the distaste palpable in his face. He offered,

“I was the one who instigated Sarah and David’s relationship. But I feel angry today, for it seems I have dug a trench and let a snake into our country. I have nothing more to say about this abomination.”

That is the true opinion harbored about David Bergman, in amongst intellectual circles at least.

Despite all that, Mr Bergman was not to be discouraged, as he remained vigilant and maintained his stance over the ICTBD, continually weaving articles which were biased, fallacious and at times were not even half true.

Now whether a legit work permit allows him to practice his brand of journalism in Bangladesh is in fact as mentioned, unclear. But what is even more astonishing is the Bangladeshi government’s complete lack of concern over Mr Bergman’s actions, his constant harassment of Bangladesh’s identity, its politics, not to mention his well-publicized distaste towards the country’s governance and maintenance.

Again, as to how exactly he has managed to prolong his stay in Bangladesh whilst working for such a newspaper, not to mention what exactly he finds so alluring about earning a below par salary, is a puzzling conundrum to say the least.

Many argue that perhaps his status as the spouse of a Bangladeshi citizen and a “stay-in” husband, [Ghor-Jamai in Bengali] saves him the trouble of shelling out the required capital needed to rent a roof here in Bangladesh. But even that still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For instance, his “blogspot” alone is maintained by 4 full-time employees and 2 part timers, according to a very credible source. In fact one of his former employees, a part-timer who wished to remain anonymous, revealed that Mr Bergman paid him 7 grand a month to maintain his blog.

Mr Bergman has penned several incriminating articles throughout the years about the ICTBD and its affairs. He covered a range of topics which include but are not limited to the International Crimes Tribunal and their judgments, the “Rana Plaza Tragedy” and the consequent plight of the garments workers. Time and again he has cropped up with words which are not only condescending, but demeaning to Bangladesh and its government in particular, whom he clearly seeks to devalue and establish distrust upon, with well-placed but blatantly false propaganda.

There are many amongst the conscious circles in Bangladesh, who have expressed their disdain over Mr David Bergman’s actions.

But Perhaps his notoriety peaked when he teamed up with Jamat and the BNP and utilised every available trick up his sleeve, in an effort to portray the ongoing war trials in Bangladesh as some sort of unholy ritual in front of the wider world.

He spent considerable resources and Jamati Funded money, deploying lobbyists and numerous representatives of the law, various organizations related to international law, its members, related journals, magazines, newspapers etc.

Recently Mr Bergman has been accused of hoarding nearly 65 crores (roughly £6M) in Bangladeshi money from the representatives of convicted war criminal Mir Quasem. Apparently he demanded this exorbitant sum in exchange of lobbying for Mir Quasem in national and international media, organizations and other related outlets. www.portalbangladesh.com a credible news source, has confirmed this.

In short he threw anything and everything at it but the kitchen sink in his effort to destabilize the tribunal’s proceedings, concocting morally questionable stories and spreading false propagandas in the process.

His main tune however was that the war crimes tribunal is but a by-product of political enmity. He complained rigorously that the tribunals were not conducted in a “proper” manner, the accused were being treated unfairly and their “rights” as humans were not being tended to. Furthermore he claimed that it was all part of a diabolical plot designed to obliterate the very existence of a certain political party.

Truth be told David Bergman is just a pawn who has sold his soul to Jamat e Islami. They are the chief instigators behind this elaborate scheme, in collusion of course with various national and international forces and entities. Nevertheless the fact remains Mr Bergman was accused of ignominy towards the court and on more than one account.

What were the official charges? What happened actually?

After the inception of the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh, Mr Bergman began uploading a steady stream of articles on his blog, most of which were aimed at detailing the tribunal’s progress. However as mentioned above, things took a turn for the worst as Mr Bergman made it a habit of undermining the ICTBD at every available opportunity.

Once their patience had worn thin enough, the tribunal was forced to hold him accountable for his actions. As such on 19.02.2014, an application was filed to initiate a contempt proceeding under section 11(4) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 (herein after stated as ICT-BD Act 1973).

There it was claimed, that Mr Bergman had published at least three articles in his blog which apart from discussing other topics, raised doubts about the total death toll in the 1971’ Liberation war (officially that figure stands at approximately 30 lacs BDT). Apart from that, the articles were also deemed as ‘unfair’ and borderline ‘scandalous’ in their criticism of the tribunal’s adjudications thus far.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the articles were tailored explicitly to diminish the tribunal’s overall credibility.

Now, what is contempt of court? Contempt of court refers to a set of actions or overall general behavior that opposes or defies authority, the justice system, or a direct or indirect attack upon the dignity of a court of law. In other words, it is an act of deliberate disobedience or disregard of law and authority, an example of which would be a court of law. The ICTBD Act of 1973 has clearly defined contempt of court in section 11(4). It says:

‘’A Tribunal may punish any person, who obstructs or abuses its process or disobeys any of its orders or directions, or does anything which tends to prejudice the case of a party before it, or tends to bring it or any of its members into hatred or contempt, or does anything which constitutes contempt of the Tribunal, with simple imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to BDT five thousand, or with both.’’

It’s simple enough. The section above is wide enough to accommodate anything resembling hatred or prejudice towards the tribunal, its members, its proceedings and indeed the cases it oversees. In addition, it states that obstructing the tribunal’s proceedings or attempting anything to compromise the cases pending within it, is punishable.

Furthermore, the phrase ‘doing anything’ includes but is not limited to unsavory publications, speeches, or indeed criticism in any form, be it by words spoken, written or even expressed by signs or by any other means of visible representation. Anything at all which demeans or is geared towards demeaning, derogates or is derogatory towards the tribunal. It also covers anything, as explained, that interferes with the natural course of any judicial proceeding. If it interferes or tends to interfere with, obstructs or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any other manner.’

These are the criteria that that Mr Bergman was subjected to, after he’d remained persistent in his aggressiveness towards on-going and concluded investigations within the ICTBD.

However the following comments well and truly eclipsed everything else that resides in the compilation of his most deranged statements. He was found quoting in his blog that

‘If the tribunal is supposed to be an adjudicator of truth, it would have dealt with the issue of the number of dead in a more judicial manner–rather repeating a mantra that has little or no factual basis’.

Again Mr Bergman displays a complete disregard of the laws the tribunal employs to resolve such matters. Instead he questions them, and accuses the tribunal of slacking off and under performing, and resorts to making cheap insults and inflammatory comments. In a democratic country which has an independent judiciary system, no individual is entitled to offer his “advise” to a court of law and if he or she does, then he or she is liable to be held on contempt of court. Allow us to cite two separate references, extracted from cases, which specifically state the ramifications of demeaning a court of law.

As we move further down the article, his words became darker and broodier and his quotes became much more malicious. Mr Bergman later attempted to secretly delete the words above from his blog. But alas it was too late as he was charged with repeated offences towards the tribunal.

Owing to the fact that Mr Bergman publicly proclaims his sagacity over the ‘71 Liberation war of Bangladesh, it is quite astonishing that he has never bothered to write a single word about victims of these brutal war crimes, who have been traumatized for more than four decades now. He has wasted article upon article weaving well-articulated lies about the judicial performance of the Tribunals.

As mentioned, expressing contempt seemed to be a hereditary problem for Mr Bergman. He revealed he was held accountable (this by the way is of his own admission) in another contempt proceeding in the Tribunal-1 (ICT-BD Misc. Case No. 02 of 2011) over allegations of publishing fallacious reports derogatory articles in a local newspaper. Back then he was just given an ultimatum by the tribunal, and advised to tread carefully in the future, before being exonerated from all charges.

It is worth mentioning that freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right in Bangladesh, which is guaranteed by its constitution. But what all of us should remember is that said right is subject to reasonable restrictions, as imposed by law.

One cannot twist the law and the protection it provides and insult a court of law. No one is entitled to publicly criticize the delicate matters of a sub-judice case, especially journalists for whom it is an ethical responsibility. But Mr Bergman of course demonstrated the traits of a proper vigilante, completely ignoring the code of professional ethics, something which permits him to practice the noble art of journalism at all. Rather time and again he has grasped at every opportunity to deface the ICTBD, going as far as offering a court of law his “advice” no less.

Greed and motivation:

As mentioned above, David Bergman is the son-in-law of prominent Bangladeshi Barrister Dr Kamal Hossain. In other words he is married to Dr Hossain’s daughter Sara Hossain. Dr Hossain’s entire family of course are quite vocal in their distrust of the tribunal. But neither Dr Hossain nor his daughter Sarah seem even remotely concerned with Mr Bergman and his shenanigans. That maybe down to the fact that Dr Hossain presumed the tribunal will be constructed and consequently conducted according to his blueprints. However not even that is the real reason behind Dr Hossain and his family’s hostility towards the ICTBD.

What we must understand is war trials are usually susceptible to worldwide attention and unwanted publicity. And it is that vulnerability that certain individuals look to profit from, and Dr Kamal Hossain was largely suspected of harboring such desires.

For instance, he reportedly demanded in excess of 100 crores in Bangladeshi money from the government. In exchange for that ludicrous sum, Dr Hossain promised to appoint a plethora of lobbyists and international experts on war crimes, employ international organizations, and prepare his own team of lawyers to administer the trials amongst other costs and charges. He claimed all this was in favor of “facilitating” the trial procedures as much as possible.

But of course the Bangladeshi government flatly rejected Dr Hossain’s proposal, preventing the trials from possibly becoming the mass media ruckus he intended it to be. Furthermore, they refuted Dr Hossain’s claim that the trials needed any “facilitating” at all, firmly stating that the prosecution is well prepared to handle any given situation and does not need the intervention of any foreign or national entities. They have done an admirable job in administrating the ICTBD, prioritizing justice over any financial gains and preventing unsavory individuals to even attempt to do so. That is what many believe prompted Dr Hossain to hold a grudge against the tribunal and blinded by his hatred he unleashed his puppets, like the ill-famed David Bergman, in order to destabilize the tribunal as much as possible.

But it did not pan out exactly as planned and Dr Hossain’s snubbed completely. Safe to say he and his family did not take it too kindly, especially since they expected the government to go head over heels in their efforts to bring him in. Clearly it’s a case of damaged egos and to a certain extent reputations. After all, it is one of the notable moments in Bangladesh’s history, such an important series of war trials, so many accused, so many condemned…

And that’s were David Bergman enters the fray, as the institutionalized voice of hurt egos or perhaps a conduit for personal vengeance, if we may go so far. His actions so far and his perpetual abjection towards the tribunal and its proceedings are clearly indicative of that. For it is too much of a coincidence that he started a website almost immediately the tribunal began its journey. The website of course documents his ill aimed thoughts about the tribunal and one he constantly kept up to date with the tribunal’s affairs.

Now while website may have been inaugurated with full intent of keeping up to date with the tribunal’s progress, it soon turned vengeful as mentioned above, regularly churning out one ridiculous propaganda after the other. Now you may question what exactly made them so whimsical, as so repetitively claimed here?

Mr Bergman tended to focus…no yes, he fed off of even the tiniest of mistakes made by lawyers representing the state (the prosecution party), aggressively highlighting any leeway afforded to them by the judges overseeing the trials. They began as snide remarks but slowly grew into something sinister as Mr Bergman attempted to portray the tribunals as “political puppets”.

His efforts of course caught the attentions of Jamat who wasted no time in acquiring his services, for a price of course according to our sources. We have already mentioned the Mir Quasem fiasco and the 65 crores that Jamat paid Mr Bergman. And now Jamat have abandoned him after he failed to deliver on his expensive promises, failing to save not only Mir Quasem but others convicted of War crimes.

Bergman’s sudden disappearance in 2012 and his controversial reappearance:

Much to the surprise of many, Sometime in 2012 Mr Bergman ceased his all of his operations completely out of the blue, as he shut down his website indefinitely and stopped contributing to his blog altogether. That incidentally coincided with when he was first cautioned by the ICTBD-2 over accusations of contempt of court.

Later on we came to learn that Mr Bergman was “occupied with something important”, and that’s why he is unavailable. That was according to a Facebook post written by Barrister Toby Cadman, who represents the defence of course (those accused of war crimes in Bangladesh).

Now eventually we came across what exactly was so “important” to Mr Bergman, after the 5th of November 2012. By then Mr Bergman had been AWOL for approximately 6 months, but on that day like a rabbit pulled out of a magician’s hat, Mr Bergman reemerged in front of the gates of the tribunal. And without any further delay, began publishing one article after the other about how a witness, who goes by the name of Sukhranjan Bali, was abducted by the law enforcement authorities of Bangladesh.

His writings garnered the attentions of various international outlets that began referring to his articles fairly consistently from then on. In fact David knew that this was going to happen, or that he might make it happen. He also knew that witness Sukhranjan Bali was in Jamat’s custody and that he will present himself in the front gates of the tribunals that day. As such Mr Bergman conveniently placed himself there beforehand to welcome him and followed up his Houdini act by conducting rapid fire interviews with Sukhranjan’s wife and his daughters, oh and also those within the immediate vicinity.

At this point it is worth mentioning that so far, there were about 15 witnesses who had already provided their respective statements with little fuss. No one had gone missing or “disappeared” in the past. Now as to how exactly Sukhranjan Bali was conjured out of thin air and compelled to provide such a significantly refined statement in a trial which had already been concluded, is still a big mystery to us.

Meanwhile the perpetrators behind this hoax claimed that Sukhranjan Bali’s name was not on the witness list of the 5th November hearing. The tribunal of course was not aware of Sukhranjan Bali’s eligibility, as all of the witnesses had already provided their statements by 23 October.

The 5th of November of course was the final time arguments from both sides were set to be heard. Nonetheless even if we assume that the defence had submitted some sort of appeal or petition in order to introduce a new witness, it is a known fact that hearings are supposed to go ahead, before any fresh petitions are considered.

Furthermore if a tribunal agrees that there are enough reasons to bring in a new witness, only then can said witness be called upon. So by the time Sukhranjan Bali had “teleported” to the gates of the ICTBD, there was no room, or indeed any credibility for a witness to just walk into the tribunal and stake a claim. The entire ordeal in truth reeks of conspiracy.

Sukhranjan Bali meanwhile was mainly a witness on the prosecution’s side. He had previously provided a statement to the investigation team, and was scheduled to come on later as a witness against Sayidee. And then of course he disappeared from the face of the Earth and no one knew why exactly.

Even his daughter Monika Rani Mandol, seemed completely unaware and deeply concerned of her father’s whereabouts, something which prompted her to file a General Dairy in a local police station (Indur Kani, also known as Zia Nagor) on 25 February 2012 (GD No: 713).

So clearly Mr Bergman’s intentions were to divert our attentions from the truth, and establish that Sukhranjan Bali had been “abducted” (as he claims it) and stowed away by the government.

Today if you bother visiting Mr Bergman’s blog, you would find it inundated with article upon article about witness Sukhranjan Bali and of course several conspiracy theories concerning the tribunal as well. We have it in good authority that in the coming days, Mr Bergman’s is planning to do something even more appalling than before, and this time the attacks will supposedly be of a grand scale.

It is safe to say that Mr Bergman kept coming up with newer and more gruesome ways to invoke the fury of Bangladesh and its people. Some of his proclamations on Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s (SQC) case for instance, who is a convicted war criminal no less, enraged the entire Bangladeshi community. He actually had the gall to defend SQC and his representatives when they tried to bully the tribunal into introducing fresh witness. That after all the formalities concerning SQC’s case had already been concluded.

He argued that SQC should have been “allowed” to introduce those witnesses, which is quite frankly perplexing coming from a man who claims he champions the law, who claims all he wants is a fair trial. And yet hasn’t this same person completely ignored that the law states no further witnesses can be introduced by the prosecution or defence, after the initial witness statements and cross examinations have been concluded?

That is just one minute example of Mr Bergman’s duplicity, and in truth an entire book can be dedicated to Mr Bergman’s skulduggery. But thankfully, a more succinct and accurate summary of the whole incident exists in the form of an article published by prominent Lawyer Nijhoom Majumder. His article is titled “10 key reasons to “dispatch” MR Bergman: SQC and his red flags”. On said article Mr Majumder goes on to state,

“Mr Bergman’s words mirrors his actions on another such previous occasion, where he offered “directions” to the court . On that day he was accused of contempt of court and fined 5000BDT for his troubles. I have to ask, is the court obliged to go scurrying about every time it is handed a document as a piece of evidence, especially something as vague and duplicitous as SQC’s certificate? Is it not capable of adjudicating whether or not a document is sound and cogent or not? And even more so, reiterating the point I made earlier, why did SQC fail to produce this certificate at the time he needed it most? Why did he choose to provide it at the final third? These are question Mr Bergman must ask himself, before he goes about comparing a court law to a soap opera, where some last minute miracle saves the day. Truth remains; nothing was performed by crossing any line laid by the law. The court made concrete decisions based on what was provided and consequently seen above.  Mr Bergman has been previously warned in a court of law dealing with a similar case, and was instructed to follow ICTA 1973 and ROP 2010 which was what the trial in question was governed by. He was asked to cease his lectures on the “trial of absentia” and it is what we ask Mr Bergman to focus on, namely what International rule sets do our courts of law abide by. I deeply regret Mr Bergman’s misconceptions about the law and are saddened by his continuous support of recognized war criminals such as SQC, strewn throughout his writings, articles and the like. I would urge Mr Bergman not to generate arguments which have more smoke than fire and generate a lot of heat but no light. It is perhaps in his best interest to revisit the laws laid for the International Crimes Tribunals worldwide; in particular the one located in Bangladesh, which is one of the topics of concern here. I would be more than happy to discuss some of the finer points of the ICTBD, should you wish to fully understand its intricacies”

If we were to summaries what we’ve said so far, we can say that David Bergman has employed the following techniques to deal damage to the tribunal’s reputation as a lobbyist of Jamat e Islami-

He has strives to highlight anything negative that has surfaced on the tribunal so far.
He has constantly accused the judges overseeing the trials of being biased and demonstrating favoritism.
He has provided ornate and at times overblown accounts of the tribunal’s proceedings, in order to prove that they are not being conducted in an appropriate manner.
Time and again he has provided sources and document, which are factually incorrect and baseless.
He has carefully crafted each article to make it appear as if the tribunal is nothing but a “political farce”
To reduce the credibility of the current government.
A short accurate description of David’s overall “physiology” is hard to come up with, especially since he tends to morph and reshape himself into something different and even more evil every time. His overall attitude towards the 1971 war crimes changed almost overnight. His thoughts mutated into poisonous beliefs, and his endeavours are seemingly set to cost the tribunal and its proceedings dearly in the future, unless they are negated somehow. And it is not only Mr Bergman. His entire family seems devoted to causing as much discomfort to the ICTBD as possible. That in turn begs the question, why is it that someone who reserves such hostility towards the very nation which shelters him, is allowed to prolong his stay here and potentially wreak further havoc in the near future? Food for thought.

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