The First Court Session
Today the world witnesses a great and extremely important and serious international event which marks an outstanding beginning in history. Today, a court tribunal will commence in the city of Vienna, Austria, and this is truly one of the most extraordinary and bizarre tribunals to ever take place. Or let us say it is the trial of the age or the mother of all trails!! It is the trial of the killers of Imam Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) and those who are responsible of the massacre which took place on the plains of Karbala, on the 10th day of Muharram, in the year 61 A.H.
The reason for the peculiarity and astonishment is because for the very first time in history, a court tribunal is set to try individuals for a crime that has been committed hundreds of years ago. Its perpetrators and victims have passed away long time ago. The world has not yet witnessed a scenario like that in the past, and this will, without a doubt, be a great event that will stand as an example and model in the future.
Verily, justice knows no place or time, and it will surely prevail even after a long delay or time lag. Who called for the setting of this tribunal and sponsored it is an association called “Justice for the Martyrs of Karbala.”
This association, in addition to the Human Rights Organization and the United Nations, has collectively taken charge of coordinating and setting this tribunal without interfering in its procedures or decisions. As its organizers say, the goal of this tribunal is to educate the whole world of the heinous crimes, tragedies, atrocities and calamities which took place in Karbala.
The aim is also to expose the perpetrators of these crimes, and to submit the clear-cut proofs and evidences against them which lead to their convection. The whole world is then left to judge them, and judge their crimes which they had committed in Karbala since more than 14 centuries ago.
It was initially decided that the court sessions will be held in the holy city of Karbala which witnessed the tragic and bloody events. However, due to security concerns and religious sensitivities and for the sake of having a more universal, unbiased, and transparent court trial, the organizers decided to hold the court proceedings in the Austrian city of Vienna. Vienna is centrally located in Europe and enjoys a high level of freedom, security, beauty, and the resources to organize such an event, as well as an advanced level of telecommunications that makes it feasible to have live broadcast of all the proceedings directly to all parts of the world simultaneously.
This way the greatest number of people across the globe can follow the events of this unique court tribunal. Furthermore, a new satellite channel has been especially set up for this purpose at a high cost which the devotees of Imam Al-Husayn (as) have donated from all over the world. This of course is in addition to other local and satellite channels everywhere.
Twelve judges representing the six continents of the world were chosen for this trial two judges representing each continent. These judges were carefully selected by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. They are well known for their competence, proficiency, and neutrality, as well as high level of technical expertise in their field globally. It has been decided that the court will follow the jury system as it is currently applied in the US, England, and Australia, with one difference. The judges will also have the right to vote alongside the jurors in reaching a final verdict of “guilty” or not “guilty”.
The panel of jurors has also been carefully selected and their total number is 100; 75 men and 25 women who represent all people and ethnic groups across the globe. This number of jurors is exceptionally high and unprecedented in any other court case.
Their selection took place after a long and tough search which the judges, prosecution, and defense teams all participated in. Among the criteria for their selection is the lack of prior knowledge of the tragedy of Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali (as) nor of what has happened in Karbala. The panel of jurors was selected from different age groups, educational, social, and religious backgrounds.
As for the defense team, it is composed of a group of Muslim radicals who believe in the purity of the early Muslims (Salaf Al Saleh) and their followers (Tabe’een). They believe in their cleanness as well as the innocence of those defendants accused of the crimes of Karbala who, according to them, are among Al Salaf Al Saleh.
For that reason, they took the initiative to defend the perpetrators since they believe that these defendants are sacred religious figures who should not be tried. And even if they did sin, it is not permissible to hold them accountable for their sins or accuse them because of their good intentions. Thus, according to the perspective of the defense team, those perpetrators are innocent in any case and God alone is the one who will hold them accountable, not the humans.
As for the prosecution, it is composed of a group of lawyers and former judges from different ethnic backgrounds and religions. What they all have in common is their love and admiration to the personality and the cause of Imam Al-Husayn (as), and the great impact and effect upon them to what has happened to him and his family in Karbala. They were determined to present the case to all mankind and to attain a universal verdict convicting the perpetrators of the inhumane crimes of Karbala.
Perhaps this could be the beginning that will set the stage for other court cases of historical events and incidents in which crimes against humanity has been committed and left behind many victims, while the perpetrators of these heinous crimes walked free and escaped justice in this life and the time has finally come to serve some justice for the victims and the oppressed ones of these crimes.
Since early morning, a big crowd gathered around the huge courthouse which is located at the downtown of the Austrian capital, Vienna. The security arrangements are strict, but without creating troubles or traffic problems. Everything is well-organized, the city is beautiful, the sun is shining, and the weather is a bit cool.
The time has been set for the First court hearing of this historical trial to take place at 10AM sharp. The doors are to be opened at 9 AM and the attendees can begin to enter and be seated. There are big numbers of media correspondents and journalists (representing local and international press and TV channels) carrying their cameras and equipment. There are many TV live broadcast trucks.
At 9AM sharp, the doors opened and attendees started entering the courtroom in a very organized manner. The media representatives have their reserved seats, as well as the audience and spectators who are directed to their seats by certain ushers. There is no disruption or commotion despite the great number of attendees, and the security procedures are proceeding smoothly and easily. Silence and organization are the main elements of the courtroom as if the whole event is under the direct supervision of angels, not humans.
Back doors were reserved for the entrance of judges, court officials, both prosecution and defense teams, jurors, and international spectators. Huge TV screens were set up in the public squares surrounding the courthouse so that viewers can follow the court events directly. The court proceedings would also be broadcasted live in different languages including Arabic, German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Urdu, Farsi, Chinese, Japanese, in addition to many other languages so that people all over the globe can follow closely this great and important event live, minute by minute, regardless of their location or language.
Displaying of anything which may influence the judges or jurors has been prohibited, things such as slogans, pictures, banners, extra-ordinary clothes, etc.
A defendant cage has been placed between the seats of the attendees and the bench of the judges. This cage contained five seats inside it. One seat was located at the front, followed by two seats behind it which is also followed by other two seats. A dummy which is completely covered by a white cloth was placed on each of these seats.
A huge banner was posted over the head of each dummy. The banner carried a name that was clearly printed in several languages. Each dummy is representing one of the defendants in this court case.
The seat located at the front of the cage had a covered dummy which carried a banner above it with the name “Yazid ibn Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan” in several languages. Behind it on the right was a covered dummy with a banner above it which read “Obaidullah ibn Ziyad” in several languages. To its left was a covered dummy which was named “Umar ibn Sa’d” also in several languages.
Behind it to the right was a seat with a covered dummy which carry the name “Shimr ibn Dhil Jawshan” in several languages. And to its left was a covered dummy which had the name “Hurmala bin Kahel” also in several languages. Court guards stood at each corner of the defendants’ cage with serious expressions while they wore their official uniforms.
Ten minutes before 10AM, an announcement was made in different languages via speakers that everyone should be seated so that the historical court trial would begin its first court session in ten minutes. The guests were asked to wear their headphones to listen in the language of their choice and all were requested to maintain silence and abide by the court rules which were clearly displayed on a big screen behind the audience.
The defense team started entering and took their allotted seats. They were nine in number from different ethnic backgrounds and all of them had long beards and signs of prostration on their foreheads. After that, the prosecution team entered and they were composed of five members, one of them was a lady wearing Niqab (complete veil). They also took their seats allotted for them.
At 10AM sharp, the sound of a hammer knocking came from speakers and the bailiff entered in his official uniform and he announced that the court is in session. He requested that everyone stand up out of respect to the judges. Everyone stood up and the twelve judges began to enter, clad in their black gowns. They seemed from different ethnic backgrounds and were headed by the Australian Chief Justice who was selected to head and supervise the trial. He looked in his late 60’s and he had white hair and white beard.
His complexion was pinkish and he wore eyeglasses and looked kind-hearted and laid-back, but he seemed to have a sense of determination and strict. The judges took their seats on the bench and seated in the middle was the Chief Justice, the Australian judge who signaled for all to sit down. Then he announced in a calm voice the commencement of the first court session and ordered that the panel of jurors enter and take their seats. Then he said:
Chief Justice: Today we commence the First court session of this historical and unique trial which I think will not be the last one. Many centuries have passed since the crime that is being looked upon took place, and the defendants in this case are being tried in their absence as they have passed away from this world many centuries ago.
The whole world is watching us with excitement and interest. I hope that this trial will be professional, subjective, and unbiased so that we reach the truth through the facts and incidents which truly took place, not what is said as rumors. I must mention here the well-known rule which states that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. So, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove to us that the defendants are guilty and at fault beyond reasonable doubt.
The burden falls on the prosecution team to prove that, and the defense team has all the right in discussing, challenging, and refuting all the evidences and witnesses that the prosecution presents. In the end, the final word is for the jurors along with the judges to decide the guilty verdict or not. I request that everyone abide by the rules and regulations of this trial which are posted on the screen behind you and have been unanimously approved.
I also ask that you maintain complete silence and discipline regardless of the emotions or reactions that may come to surface with the events of this trial. Let’s start it, I request that the Secretary of the court recite the indictment in a clear and loud voice…you may go ahead. (He turns his head towards the Court Secretary)
Court Secretary: (recites the indictment)
Your honor, respected judges and jurors…
First: On Friday, the 10th day of Muharram, year 61 A.H. according to the Islamic lunar calendar which coincides with October 9th, 680 A.D., the following defendants had committed war crimes, mass murder and crimes against humanity:
1. Yazid ibn Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan
2. Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad ibn Abeeh
3. Umar ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas
4. Shimr ibn Dhil Jawshan Al Dababi
5. Hurmala ibn Kahel Al Asadi
First and foremost, the above defendants planned, coordinated, and participated actively and collectively in the:
A. Encircling and arresting of a civilian caravan in the area of Karbala in Iraq, and preventing the travelers in this caravan from reaching the water despite their knowledge that in this caravan there were women, children, elderly, and unarmed civilians.
B. Rejecting all attempts of peaceful resolutions of the conflict, and the insistence on using military and armed forces.
C. Attacking the small civilian caravan by a strong, well-armed, and well-equipped army that is big in number, despite the lack of equality in strength, using excessive force which led to this heinous and horrific human massacre.
D. Issuing orders to kill children and infants using arrows and carrying out that without any compassion or mercy.
E. Beheading the victims, mutilating their bodies and looting them, and refrained from burying the dead bodies. All that took place in front of the families of the victims and their children.
F. Setting on fire and burning tents and shelter of the women, children, and the sick and injured, after stealing and looting their belongings.
G. Taking the women, the children, and the sick people in captivity. Mistreating them by hitting, looting, and torturing which led and caused the death of some.
H. Terrifying and terrorizing the children in captivity which led to death of one of them.
I. Parading and displaying the captives and the severed heads of the victims in a festive march and rally throughout the cities and villages until they reached Damascus in Syria.
Second: Each of the five aforementioned defendants individually and personally committed mass murder, crimes against humanity and war crimes on the specified date as follows:
1) YAZID IBN MUAWIYA, the Umayyad ruler over the Islamic state. He is charged with:
A. Issuing orders to chase and kill Imam Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) which forced Imam Al-Husayn to leave his homeland city against his own will to seek refuge at a safe haven along with his family and children.
B. Issuing orders to his governor in Iraq, the Second defendant, to fight the civilian caravan that carries Imam Al-Husayn (as) and his family, and to do so without neglect or leniency.
C. Issuing orders to behead the bodies of the dead victims and carry them to Damascus.
D. Issuing orders to take the women and children in captivity and bring them to Damascus.
E. Issuing orders to organize ceremonial and festive celebrations to demean, disgrace, and maltreat the captives
F. Directly ordering the terrorizing of a female child in captivity which caused her immediate death.
2) UBAIDULLAH IBN ZIYAD, Governor of Al-Kufa and Al-Basra. He is charged with:
A. Preparing a big army to face the small civilian caravan with prior knowledge that it contains women, children, and elderly and that it is an unequal match.
B. Rejecting all attempts to make peace and reconciliation. Insisting to attack a civilian caravan and using excessive force.
C. Issuing orders to arrest the civilian caravan and prevent them from reaching the water, knowing well that it includes women, children, and sick people.
D.Threatening and killing all those in his army who refuse to obey his inhumane orders or hesitate to carry out the war crimes, and forcing the soldiers to do so.
E. Issuing orders to behead the dead victims and to mutilate their bodies and bring their heads to him.
F. Issuing orders to take the women, the children, and the sick people as captives, and to mistreat them.
G. Directly and intentionally causing the death of two children among the captives.
H. Issuing orders to march the captives in the worst of conditions in ceremonial parades from Al-Kufa in Iraq to Damascus in Syria, which caused great harm to the women, the children, and the sick.
I. Issuing orders to carry the heads of the victims on raised spears from Al-Kufa to Damascus, in front of their families in such an inhumane and horrendous manner.
3) UMAR IBN SA’D IBN ABI WAQQAS, Field Commander of the Army. He is charged with:
A. Directly commanding the army who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, with a pre-determined intention.
B. Issuing orders to directly attack the civilian caravan, and personally starting the first strike.
C. Urging his army to use excessive force against the civilian caravan.
D. Preventing water from reaching the women, children, and the sick and elderly.
E. Issuing orders to kill the wounded in the battlefield.
F. Issuing orders to kill two children in the battlefield.
G. Issuing orders to behead the dead victims and mutilate their bodies in front of their families.
H. Issuing orders to set on fire and burn the tents and shelter of women, children, and the sick.
I. Taking women, children, and sick as captives and mistreating them.
J. Refraining from burial of the victims’ bodies and abandoning them in the desert.
4) SHIMR IBN DHIL JAWSHAN AL-DABABI, Deputy Commander of the army. He is charged with:
A. Directly urging and causing the armed attack on the civilian caravan.
B. Actively seeking to hinder and fail all peace talks and trials for resolving the conflict in a peaceful manner.
C. Urging the attack on women, children, and the sick.
D. Urging the arrest of the civilians and preventing water from reaching them.
E. Promoting and urging the soldiers to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
F. Issuing direct orders to execute the injured and the captives.
G. Beheading the victims and mutilating their bodies in front of their families.
H. Urging and participating in setting on fire and burning the tents and shelter of women and children, and attempting to kill the sick.
I. Mistreating and causing physical harm to women and children in captivity, and terrorizing the children.
J. Raising the heads of the dead victims on spears and displaying them in festive parades and celebrations for the purposes of gloating and rejoicing.
5) HURMALA IBN KAHEL AL ASADI, Commander of the arrow shooters and the chief sniper. He is charged with:
A. Directly participating in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
B. Intentional murder of two children with arrows in the battlefield.
C. Killing the injured and the wounded in the battlefield.
Thank you your Honor.
(The court secretary sits down after reciting the indictment. Looks of disgust are noted on the faces of many of the jurors after listening to the indictment. Many of them were attentively listening to the announcement of these charges).
(After concluding the recitation of the indictment, the Chief Justice said):
Chief Justice: Thank you Court secretary. I’d like to remind everyone once again that what you just listened to are simply allegations and does not mean that any of the defendants are guilty of anything. A defendant is innocent until proven otherwise. Because the defendants are being tried in their absence, a white cloth has been placed on each dummy to represent their innocence until their final conviction. I request that everyone take this into consideration especially the respected jurors. The burden lays on the prosecution to prove that those defendants are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
And now, due to the fact that these five defendants are being tried in their absence, each of them will have a lawyer to represent him. Each lawyer will represent his client in responding to all the charges in the indictment by stating “guilty” or “not guilty”. Let us begin with the First defendant…
The First defendant Yazid ibn Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan…are you guilty or not guilty of the charges that were directed against you?
Lawyer of Yazid: (stands up and says)
Not guilty in all of the abovementioned charges. (then he sits down)
The Second defendant Ubaidullah bin Ziyad…are you guilty or not guilty of the charges that were directed against you?
Lawyer of Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad:
Not guilty in all the charges directed to him. (then he sits down)
The Third defendant Umar ibn Sa’d…are you guilty or not guilty of the charges that were directed against you?
Lawyer of Umar ibn Sa’d: (stands up and says)
Absolutely not guilty! (then he sits down)
The Fourth defendant Shimr ibn Dhil Jawshan…are you guilty or not guilty of the charges that were directed against you?
Personal lawyer of Shimr: (stands up and says)
Not guilty of anything. (then he sits down)
Court Secretary: (stands up and says)
The Fifth defendant Hurmala ibn Kahel…are you guilty or not guilty of the charges that were directed against you?
Personal lawyer of Hurmala: (stands up and says)
Not guilty. (Then he sits down)
Then the Court Secretary sits down after completing the legal procedure.
Chief Justice: Now, the prosecution may begin their opening statement…Mr. Prosecutor…you may begin. (The Prosecutor stands up. He is a young gentleman in his mid-thirties. He looked smart, neat, and humble with dignity and determination. It’s hard to identify to his ethnic origin. He stands and begins to speak in a clear soft and deep voice which seems to bewilder the minds).
Prosecutor: Your Honor, dear respected judges, and respected members of the jury...thank you for participating in this unique and universal trial…
Since the beginning of man’s life on this planet, history has witnessed many killings, massacres, and mass murders which cannot be accounted for or encompassed. Unfortunately in most of these crimes, the accused perpetrators and those responsible have escaped a fair trial; hence to be judged as guilty or innocent. As a result, the human justice system has become imbalanced and did not serve or bring justice to the victims of these terrible crimes.
Today, as humanity has reached a high level of development and civilization, the time has come to open the doors of justice for the martyrs and victims of the past, so that their suspected killers and oppressors should stand a fair trial and be judged if they are guilty or not based on pure facts of history. Justice would then be served. After all, justice cannot be limited by time and cannot be folded or forgotten. It is alive even if it has been concealed, abandoned, manipulated, or avoided. Justice must wake up one day to reappear, prevail, and fill the earth with equity and fairness, after it has been filled with injustice and oppression!
The case put forth in front of you today is among the most worst and heinous of crimes and massacres committed against humanity which its perpetrators have escaped human justice! This case will indeed be the beginning and will not be the last so that every tyrant and oppressor will come to know that he must ,one day, stand trial and justice prevails and the oppressed and victims get their rights.
What has happened on the plains of Karbala in Iraq on the 10th of Muharram in the year 61 A.H., which coincides with October 9th, 680 AD, is a clear violation to human rights and a horrible crime against humanity.
Indeed; human beings are all one and cannot be separated. If one person’s life or rights are violated, it is like everyone else has been violated. This is a principle which all divine and religious doctrines has agreed upon as well as all secular laws and human traditions.
These five defendants, represented by these dummies, who are being tried in their absence, collectively and individually committed these crimes which were mentioned in the indictment. The prosecution will present irrefutable evidence which will clearly indicate without any doubt that they have committed all these premeditated crimes in cold-blood and that they are guilty of all the charges against them.
We simply ask you to exercise patience and give us your time and undivided attention with an open heart and mind so that we present our historical evidence and witnesses to prove our case and convict these defendants for what they have committed.
Yes, both the victims and the defendants in this case have passed away from this world since long time ago, but the souls of the victims, especially the innocent children haunt us here in this courtroom and call upon you to bring them justice against their oppressors who killed them while they were thirsty and helpless. If we are able to achieve justice today for those oppressed in the past, we would be doing great service to ourselves and our societies. Only then will the principle of justice be ingrained in our conscience and the society will be then in good standing. You never know…perhaps one day we ourselves will be the victims and then need to achieve human justice
for ourselves from those who oppressed, killed, and tortured us. At that moment our souls too will haunt courtrooms calling and seeking justice.
Your Honor, respected judges and jurors, thank you for listening and please accept my regards.
(That awe-inspiring prosecutor who was able in a few words to move the hearts and awaken the minds and conscience and attract the attention of the listeners everywhere, then sat down).
Chief Justice: Thank you Mr. Prosecutor, and now the Lawyer representing the defense team may start his opening statement.
Defense: (one of the nine lawyers with black thick beard, plump face, and tough features with a clearly visible mark of prostration on the forehead and an obese body stands up. He then spoke in a loud sharp resonating voice).
Dear respected judges, your Honor, respected jurors, Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
Many centuries has passed since the events of this case in front of you have taken place. Therefore, it is very difficult and rather impossible to find the truth! All we have are simply narrations coming from the far past which are surrounded by doubts and uncertainty.
The defendants in this case are important figures who did not act except within the limits of their religion and its regulations and teachings. So, it is hard to place them on trial without taking into account this religion and its recommendations. Perhaps they made a mistake unintentionally, and in Islam there is a rule which dictates that, “Whoever engages in ijtihad / diligent effort to make a fair judgment and tries to reach an Islamic verdict and was correct in his verdict, he will get double the reward. And if he made a mistake in judgment, still he gets one reward.” They were known for being righteous, pi-
ous, and having good behavior. There may have been mistakes made by the field commanders, or there may have been limits which were exceeded due to lack of good communication during that time! There may have been individual incidents or actions that were carried out by the soldiers on the battlefield, but it was never done intentionally nor was it planned by those five defendants such that they deserve to be on trial.
It is true that killing a human being is considered to be a crime if it was done intentionally and was premeditated. But if it happened by mistake, then it is not a crime. What is worse than killing is to accuse an innocent person with this killing, because in such case we would be correcting injustice with more injustice. Human justice would not be served, rather human injustice!
So, let us leave Allah (God) [SWT] to judge them by His Justice, for only He (SWT) knows the whole truth. These defendants are now under his mercy and justice. So why do we concern ourselves in matters which are not our business? I am confident that your efforts will reach the same conclusion at the end.
Respected judges and jurors, they are wasting your time and our time in something that has no benefit. It will soon become clear to you that the prosecution will completely fail in proving anything or convicting any of the five defendants. Thank you your Honor, Wasalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
(The lawyer who seemed to have stirred confusion in the courtroom by his words then sat down).
Chief Justice: Thank you, Mr. Lawyer. I believe there are two motions submitted by the defense. Is that correct? (he looks at the defense team)
Defense: Yes, your Honor. The motions have been handed over to the court secretary and it is available in front of you. Our first motion is that this court is not qualified to look into a case like this. In our second motion, we request permission to take some Islamic laws in consideration when discussing some of the events in this case. We know that the court rules dictate avoiding discussion of religious matters. But due to the special nature of this case, the defense finds it inevitable to discuss some Islamic laws in our argument. This would be very restricted and within the range of defending our clients only. We also have another motion, your Honor, which is in the process of being submitted to the court secretary.
Chief Justice: What is this motion?
Defense: We request that jurors be totally sequestered from the media so that they are not subjected to influence by the media coverage. This is due to the nature of this case. We do not want their verdict to be affected by emotions.
Chief Justice: We will look into your motions if they are complete and ready, and I shall make a decision about them in the next court session. Do you have any other motions?
Defense: No, your Honor.
Chief Justice: Mr. Prosecutor, do you have any remarks regarding the motions presented by the defense team?
Prosecutor: Yes, your Honor. We totally object on the First motion, but we have no problem with the Second and Third requests, if they met the court stipulations.
Chief Justice: Please submit your remarks in a written statement today to the court secretary clarifying your position regarding these three motions so I can review it before making a decision regarding them. Now the court is dismissed for today and will resume tomorrow morning at 10AM. The prosecution should be ready to start presenting his evidences and witnesses in the case. Thank you all. Court is dismissed!
(Judges and jurors begin leaving the courtroom followed by the defense and the prosecution teams. After that, the attendees start exiting quietly in an organized manner as they entered. But they are now more excited and eager to follow the events of the next court session of this unique and thrilling trial which stirred commotion in all parts of the world).