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Bangladesh court sentences Islamic leader to life in jail

Publication Date : 06-02-2013

 

Amid Jamaat's countrywide hartal and threats of anarchy, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday sentenced top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

The 65-year-old has been found guilty of five wartime criminal offences.

In two of the five incidents, at least 350 Bangalees were killed and a girl was raped for each of which the three-member tribunal awarded him life sentence (30 years). He also got 15 years' imprisonment for his complicity in each of the three other criminal offences in which six people were killed.

He also got 15 years' imprisonment for each of the three other criminal incidents in which six people were killed.

"As the convict Abdul Quader Mollah is sentenced to imprisonment for life, the sentence of imprisonment for 15 years will naturally get merged into the sentence of imprisonment for life," the tribunal said in its order.

Mollah, assistant secretary general of Jamaat, was in the dock when the three judges read out the summary of the verdict in parts, which took one and a half hours. The full verdict is 132 pages long and has 429 paragraphs.

As soon as the tribunal finished the pronouncement, Mollah stood up from his chair and said as he showed a victory sign: "Allahu Akbar [Allah is great]. This is injustice."

Of the six top Jamaat leaders charged with crimes against humanity, Mollah is the first to be convicted. In 1971, he was a leader of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat.

The same tribunal on January 21 gave death sentence to expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, for genocide and murder.

Jamaat played an active role to foil the freedom struggle of Bangladesh and helped the Pakistani occupational forces to that end. During the nine-month war, the Pak army along with its collaborators killed about three million Bangalees and violated more than a quarter million women.

Soon after the pronouncement of the verdict, prosecution and people started expressing their frustrations, saying they were expecting death sentence for the Jamaat leader, a widely known war criminal.

The defence and Jamaat rejected the judgment and termed it perverse.

Defence counsel Tajul Islam told The Daily Star that they would "certainly" appeal against the judgment.

Under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, the defence has to do so within 30 days with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

"The government shall have the right of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh against an order of acquittal," the law says.

Some legal experts believe the government cannot appeal in case of Quader Mollah for harsher punishment as he has been already convicted. However, the prosecution counsels can press the tribunal to give harsher sentence during the hearing of the defence petition at the SC.

But some other lawyers say the prosecution can still appeal as Mollah was acquitted in one of the charges.

"We have taken due notice of the intrinsic magnitude of the offence of murders as crimes against humanity being offences which are predominantly shocking to the conscience of mankind," said the judges in the verdict.

"We have carefully considered the mode of participation of the accused to the commission of crimes proved and the proportionate to the gravity of offences," they added.

"The principle of proportionality implies that sentences must reflect the predominant standard of proportionality between the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

"In assessing the gravity of the offence, we have taken the form and degree of the accused's [sic] participation in the crimes into account."

In one of the concluding remarks, the tribunal said: "No innocent person be convicted, let hundreds guilty be acquitted" -- the principle has been changed in the present time. In this regard it has been observed by the Indian Supreme Court that 'A judge does not preside over a criminal trial, merely to see that no innocent man is punished. A judge also presides to see that a guilty man does not escape. Both are public duties.'"

Yesterday, all eyes were on the tribunal and enormous tension was around as Jamaat called a daylong hartal against delivering this verdict. Jamaat's hartal announcement came following series of unprecedented attacks on police and indiscriminate rampage across the country since late last year.

An unprecedented security measures were taken around the tribunals building where Tribunal-2 Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan and members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam unanimously held Mollah guilty in five of the six charges brought against him.

The only charge that the prosecution failed to prove was the one for killing hundreds of people at Ghatar Char and Bhawal Khan Bari in Keraniganj.

"We are persuaded to note that the commission of the event of mass killing by launching attack directing the civilians as crimes against humanity on the date and time and in the manner causing deaths of numerous civilians has been proved. Besides, commission of crimes alleged is not disputed," said the verdict.

But the judges said, "We are not convinced to arrive at decision that the guilt of accused has been proved. Prosecution has failed to prove participation or complicity or act on part of the accused to the commission of the offence of crimes against humanity by adducing lawful and credible evidence," reads the verdict.

During the pronouncement of the verdict, Mollah's children, a few junior members of defence team, attorney general and all prosecution members, investigators and civil society members, among others, were present.

LIEF FOR TWO CHARGES
The tribunal awarded life term imprisonment in two charges against Mollah.

One was: on the early morning of April 24, 1971, members of Pakistan occupation forces and around 50 non-Bangalees led by Quader Mollah raided Alubdi village of Mirpur and suddenly launched attack on unarmed villagers, killing 344 people. Of the victims, names of 24 people were mentioned in the charge.

Other one was: At around 6:00pm of March 26, 1971, Quader Mollah being accompanied by some Biharis and Pakistani army went to the house of Hazrat Ali Laskar at Mirpur Section-12 and entering the house forcibly, his accomplices under his leadership and on his order killed Hazrat Ali by gunfire.

His wife Amina was gunned down and then slaughtered to death, their two minor daughters were also slaughtered to death, their two-year-old son Babu was also killed by dashing him to the ground violently. Twelve of his accomplices gang raped his 11-year-old daughter but one of his daughter escaped.

The tribunal awarded 15 years imprisonment for each of the three charges against Mollah.

One of the three charges was: On Quader Mollah's instruction, one of his aides named Akhter killed Pallab, a student of Bangla College and an organiser of the Liberation War, on April 5, 1971.

Pallab was buried by Kalapani Jheel along with several other bodies.

A group of anti-liberation people forcibly took Pallab to Quader Mollah at Mirpur-12. From there, on the Jamaat leader's order, they dragged the youth to Shah Ali Majar at Mirpur-1, according to the charges.

Pallab was then taken to an Eidgah field at Mirpur-12, where he was shot dead.

Another charge was: On March 27, 1971, Quader Mollah and his aides murdered pro-liberation poet Meherun Nesa, her mother and two brothers at their house at Mirpur-6.

The third one was: Quader Mollah accompanied by other members of Al Badr, Razakar and non-Bangalees detained one Khandakar Abu Taleb from Mirpur-10 bus stand on March 29, 1971, and tied him up with a rope. He was brought to the Mirpur Jallad Khana Pump House and killed.

On Nov 25, 1971, Quader Mollah along with his 60 to 70 accomplices went to the village of Khanbari and Ghotan Char, now Shaheed Nagar of Keraniganj, and caught two unarmed freedom fighters from the house of Mozaffar Ahmed Khan.

Freedom fighters Osman Gani and Golam Mostafa were brutally murdered by charging bayonet in broad daylight.

A systematic attack and indiscriminate shooting by Quader Mollah and his gang killed hundreds of unarmed people of the two villages that day. Among them, 24 persons were named in the charge.

 

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