Friday, July 12, 2024

Quader Molla handed life term

The international crimes tribunal on Tuesday sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla to life term imprisonment for committing mass murder and rape during the country’s War of Liberation in 1971.
A three-member International Crimes Tribunal-2 delivered the historic judgment against Quader, an assistant secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, in the crowded courtroom at Old High Court building in tight security.
‘…Accused Abdul Quader Molla… is found guilty of the offences of crimes against humanity …,’ tribunal chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan pronounced the verdict.
As the tribunal completed delivering the verdict at 12:05pm, Quader who sat on a chair in the dock in a pensive mood, stood up by holding the stand and cried out: ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great).
He claimed his innocence and began to curse the judges and government leaders.
Quader took a copy of the Holy Quran out of his pocket and held it out saying that one day the judges would be put on trial in accordance with the law of the Quran.
‘Inshallah, Inshallah,’ his daughter Amatulla Parveen wearing cloak echoed his sentiment.
Quader, 64, is the first Jamaat leader convicted in a war crimes case by the ICT.
Earlier, the same tribunal awarded the first war crimes convict Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar death sentence on January 21.
The tribunal also sentenced Quader to 15 years imprisonment on three charges of ‘complicity’ in murders during the liberation war.
He was, however, acquitted of a charge of ‘abetting’ in committing murders.
The punishment shall commence forthwith from the date of the judgment, the tribunal ordered.
‘…As the convict Abdul Quader Molla is sentenced to “imprisonment for life, the “imprisonment for 15 years” will naturally get merged into the sentence of ‘‘imprisonment for life”,’ the tribunal said.
A good number of freedom fighters, lawyers,
intellectuals, cultural activists and journalists thronged the courtroom to hear the verdict.
A few of junior lawyers of the defence team, including Sazzad Ali Chowdhury, were present though their seniors did not turn up because of what they said ‘unavoidable circumstances’.
Jamaat enforced a countrywide shutdown on the day to press for abolition of the tribunal and release of their leaders facing the war crimes charges.
Emerging from the tribunal, attorney general Mahbubey Alam, along with chief prosecutor Golam Arief Tipoo and other members of the prosecution, termed the verdict ‘unexpected.’
‘We expected death sentence for Quader for committing mass murder and rape but the verdict did not fulfill our expectation,’ he said.
When asked whether they would appeal against the verdict to the Appellate Division, he said that they would decide after going through the full verdict.
Though junior defence counsel Sazzad Ali Chowdhury did not comment on the verdict immediately, the defence team in a statement in the evening said awarding Quader life term imprisonment was a ‘sad and black chapter’ in the history of the judiciary in Bangladesh ‘as the prosecution could not prove any of their six charges’.
The statement termed it a ‘perverse judgment’ and expected that the verdict would be overturned by the Appellate Division.
According to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, a person convicted and sentenced by a tribunal shall have the right of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh against such conviction and sentence.
The act also says that the government shall have the right of appeal to the Appellate Division against an order of acquittal.
Any of the aggrieved parties will have to appeal in 30 days after delivery of the verdict.
Quader’s daughter Amatulla Parveen told New Age afterwards that they had no comments on the verdict.
ICT registrar AKM Nasiruddin Mahmud, referring to Bangladesh penal code, told reporters that one has to serve 30 years in jail if awarded life term imprisonment.
On January 17, after the closing arguments of both the prosecution and the defence, the tribunal announced that the verdict in the war crimes case against Quader would be delivered any day.
Justice Obaidul, before delivering the verdict, said the 132-page judgment had 432 paragraphs and each of the chief prosecutor, defence and attorney general would be given a certified copy of the verdict.
He said the 35-page summary of the full text of judgment has 111 paragraphs.
Tribunal member Judge Md Shahinur Islam read out paragraphs 1-35 of the summary, member Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Mia paragraphs 36-88 and the chairman read out the remaining part of the summary judgment.
As soon as the tribunal sat for delivering the verdict, Quader Molla who was sitting on a chair in the dock, stood up and sought permission to speak but the tribunal turned down the request.
‘This tribunal (ICT-2), a lawfully constituted domestic judicial forum, after dealing with the matter of prosecution and trial of internationally recognised crimes i.e. crimes against humanity perpetrated in 1971 in the territory of Bangladesh, during the war of liberation, is going to deliver its unanimous verdict in a case after holding trial in presence of the persons accused of crimes alleged. From this point of view, delivering verdict in this case by the tribunal 2 (ICT-2) is indeed a significant occasion,’ tribunal member Judge Md Shahinur Islam began to read out the judgment at 10:50am.
As the ICT-2 courtroom has space constraints, it temporarily sat in the ICT-1 courtroom for delivering the verdict.
The tribunal awarded life term imprisonment, prescribed in the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, as Quader was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on two counts of crimes against humanity for
committing mass killing of 300-350 people at Alubdi village under Pallabi in Dhaka on April 24, 1971 and for killing Hazrat Ali Lasker and his family members at Mirpur 12 on March 26, 1971.
The tribunal awarded him 15 years imprisonment for ‘complicity’ in killing Mirpur Bangla College student Pallab (Tuntuni) at the Eidgah Maidan at Mirpur 12 on April 5, 1971, for ‘complicity’ in the slaughter of pro-liberation poet Meherunnesa, her elderly mother and two brothers at her house in Mirpur on March 27, 1971 and for ‘complicity’ in killing journalist Khondaker Abu Taleb at Mirpur killing ground on March 29, 1971.
It, however, acquitted Quader of the charge of attending a ‘conspiracy meeting’ on the night of November 23, 1971 and committing murders at Ghatarchar under Keraniganj in Dhaka district on November 25, 1971.
The tribunal on May 28, 2012 indicted Quader on six charges.
Under the act of 1973, the government formed ICT-1, investigation agency and a prosecution team on March 25, 2010 for trial of 1971 war crimes suspects. The ICT-2 was constituted on March 22, 2012 as the number of cases increased.
Abdul Quader Molla, born in the village Amirabad under Sadarpur in Faridpur in 1948, joined Jamaat’s then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1966 when he was a student of Rajendra College in Faridpur and held the position of the president of the organisation’s Faridpur unit. He became the president of ICS Shahidullah Hall unit while studing at Dhaka University, the order said.
In 1971, according to the prosecution, he organised the formation of Al-Badr Bahini with the students belonging to ICS and allegedly in close alliance with Pakistani occupation army and Jamaat actively aided, abetted, facilitated and substantially assisted, contributed and provided moral support to and encouraged atrocities in 1971.
‘In the early hour of March 26, 1971, following the onslaught of Operation Search Light by the Pakistani military on March 25, 1971, Bangabandhu [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] declared independence immediately before he was arrested by the Pakistani occupation army,’ the judgment’s brief historical background part said.
It also said that atrocious and dreadful crimes were committed during the nine-month long War of Liberation in 1971, which resulted in the birth of Bangladesh.
‘Some three million people were killed, nearly a quarter million women were raped and over 10 million people were forced to take refuge in India to escape brutal persecution at home, during the nine-month battle and struggle of the Bangalee nation,’ it said.
The judgment said that a small number of Bangalees, Biharis, other pro-Pakistanis, as well as members of a number of different religion- based political parties, particularly Jamaat, its student wing ICS, Muslim League, Pakistan Democratic Party, Council Muslim League, Nezam-e-Islami, joined or collaborated with the Pakistan occupation army to aggressively resist the conception of independent Bangladesh and most of them committed and facilitated the commission of atrocities in violation of customary international law in the territory of Bangladesh.
The individuals and political organisations which played a notorious and antagonistic role resisting the liberation war in 1971 were rehabilitated and recognised in all spheres of state and even some individuals actively affiliated with the politics of Jamaat and ICS got opportunity to share state power, it said, adding that there was no favourable situation, strong political will and consensus till 2009 to prosecute the offenders under the act of 1973 for political reasons.
‘Justice delayed is no longer justice denied, particularly when the perpetrators of core international crimes are brought to process of justice,’ the tribunal said.
‘Such agreement [Tripartite Agreement and immunity to 195 Pakistani war criminals] was an ‘executive act’ and it cannot create any clog to prosecute members of ‘auxiliary force’ or an ‘individual’ or member of ‘group of individual’ as the agreement showing forgiveness and immunity to the persons committing offence in breach of customary international law was derogatory to the existing law i.e. the act of 1973 enacted to prosecute those offences,’ it said.
‘… We are of the view that ‘tripartite agreement’ is not at all a barrier to prosecute local civilians, perpetrators under the act of 1973,’ the judgment said.
The war crimes investigation agency probed the case against Quader from July 21, 2011 to October 31, 2011 and the prosecution submitted formal charges against him on December 18, 2011 on seven counts of crimes against humanity.
His case was transferred to ICT-2 from ICT-1 on April 16, 2012.
Quader’s trial began on June 20, 2012 through an opening statement by the prosecution.
The prosecution presented 12 witnesses to testify against Quader and the defence produced six witnesses to defend him.
Quader’s defence alibi was that he was not in Dhaka when the crimes were committed claiming that he had spent almost the entire time in 1971-1972 at his village home and had run a grocery at Chouddarashi Bazaar in Faridpur.
Quader defended himself from the witness box as the first prosecution witness on November 15, 2012.
He also said that he had received training for freedom fighters in his village areas at the beginning of the war.
In the judgment, the tribunal said, ’We do not find any rationale to believe that being a potential leader of the student wing of a regimented political organization, Jamaat, accused Abdul Quader Molla was inspired to receive such training to join as a freedom fighter.’
He was arrested on July 13, 2010 in a case filed by freedom fighter Amir Hossain Molla with Pallabi police station for committing massacre in Mirpur during the liberation war.
Quader was shown arrested in the case on August 2, 2010.
The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972, widely known as the Collaborators Order, was promulgated on January 24, 1972.
The government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman set up 73 special tribunals, including 11 in Dhaka, to try Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams members, defined as collaborators in the order.
The families of many, killed in the war, filed cases under the order. As of March 28, 1972, forty-two cases were filed, according to an announcement of the police at the time.
The number kept rising till November 1973. Several thousand cases were filed under the order.
No specific information on the fate of the cases could be known as the old files and police records could not be traced.
Only six cases had been disposed of and five persons were convicted till 1975, according to what could be gathered from the families of the martyred freedom fighters and intellectuals, the lawyers of the cases and the newspapers of the time.
The process of the trial of collaborators was, however, impeded by a general amnesty for the collaborators, declared by the then prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on November 30, 1973.
The Collaborators Order was revoked on December 31, 1975 and almost all the collaborators convicted were released in the early days of the regime of Ziaur Rahman, which buried the process of the trial of the collaborators.
The government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enacted the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 on July 19, 1973 for the trial of war criminals. Four days earlier, on July 15, 1973, the constitution was amended for the first time providing a constitutional coverage for the act so that it could not be deemed unconstitutional because of its inconsistency with the constitution.
No tribunal, however, was formed nor any case filed under the act. No investigation was initiated.
The issue of the trial of war criminals was revived in 1992 with the trial of Ghulam Azam, then Jamaat amir, in a people’s court.

Courtesy of New Age

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