Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– The International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Tuesday sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami’s Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Molla to suffer life term for his role during the country’s War of Liberation against Pakistan in 1971.
The three-judge tribunal unanimously pronounced the verdict finding him guilty of murder and other serious crimes in a packed courtroom on the High Court premises in presence of Molla.
Molla was indicted for six war crimes charges on May 28 last year including mass murder, conspiracy and instigation in 1971.
This is the second verdict since the Sheikh Hasina government in 2010 initiated the process of trying those who committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War under an amended 1973 law.
While disposing of the war crimes case, the tribunal opted for the alternative punishment as prescribed under section 20(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
It says: “Upon conviction of an accused person, the tribunal shall award sentence of death or such other punishment proportionate to the gravity of the crime as appears to the tribunal to be just and proper.”
Flanked by two other members-Justice M Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam-ICT chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan pronounced the 132-page judgment amid unprecedented security in and around the tribunal at the Old High Court building.
The judgment was delivered at the ICT-1 due to accommodation problem in the ICT-2.
Police produced accused Abdul Quader Mollah in the dock 10 minutes before the tribunal resumed.
All the three ICT-2 judges read out in phases the 35-page summary of the judgment in an overcrowded courtroom for 75 minutes.
This was the second judgment delivered by the ICT-2 among the cases of the 1971 crimes against humanity.
On January 21, the same tribunal awarded death penalty, in absentia, to Jamaat-e-Islami Rokan (expelled) Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, 41 years ago.
The 65-year-old convict assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami was found guilty of the crimes against humanity, including murders of pro-liberation civilian Pallav, an inhabitant of Nawabpur in Old Dhaka city, Poet Meherrunnesa and her family and journalist Khandker Abu Taleb of the daily Ittefaq and mass killings at Alubdi and Hazrat Ali, then Awami League leader, along with his family followed by rape, said the tribunal.
Five charges of crimes against humanity out of six allegations against Quader Mollah were proved beyond any reasonable doubt, said the tribunal.
The tribunal, however, acquitted him of Ghatar Char and Bhawal Khan Bari killings as the prosecution failed to prove the charge made against him beyond any reasonable doubt.
The tribunal sentenced Quader Mollah, an identified member of Al Badr, a vigilante group of Jamaat-e Islami and an occupation army paramilitary body, to 15 years jail for the crimes of murders of Pallav, Poet Meherunnesa along with her family and Ittefaq journalist Khandker Abu Taleb while life-term imprisonment for the crimes of mass killings at Alubdi and killings of Hazrat Ali along with his family followed by rape.
In the judgment, the tribunal made it clear that the sentence of imprisonment for 15 years will be merged into the life term rigorous imprisonment for 30 years, effective from today.
Referring to section 20 (3) of the ICT Act 1973, the tribunal in its order said the sentence awarded shall be carried out in accordance with the orders of the government.
Earlier on January 3, during the trial proceedings, the tribunal fined Quader Mollah BDT 10,000 apparently for “obstructing expeditious disposal of the case.”
On January 17, the tribunal kept pending the judgment in the Quader Mollah case after formally closing arguments from both sides of the trial on charges of crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Liberation War in 1971.
A total of 18 witnesses, 12 from the prosecution and six from the defence, testified in the case.
While delivering the verdict the tribunal said, “We’ve 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.”
“We’ve carefully considered the mode of participation of the accused to the commission of crimes proved and the proportionate to the gravity of offences,” said the tribunal.
It said 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’ve taken the form and degree of the accused’s participation in the crimes into account,” said the tribunal.
Barrister Abdur Razzaq, assisted by Ekramul Haque,Abdus Sobhan Tarafder, Tajul Islam, Farid Uddin Khan and Sajjad Ali Chowdhury appeared for Quader Mollah while Chief Prosecutor Golam Arif Tipoo and advocate Mohammad Ali stood for the prosecution.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said they would decide later whether to appeal against the verdict.
Mohammad Ali, the prosecutor handling the case from the beginning, said he was not satisfied with the judgement. “I had expected capital punishment.”
He said for at least two of the charges Molla should have been ‘sentenced to death’.
Reacting immediately to the verdict, defence lawyer Abdur Razzaq said they would appeal against the verdict as the charges of crimes against Molla had not been ‘established’.
“The sentence manifestly is a perverse judgment. We will certainly appeal,” he said.
The first of the charges brought against him was that he had allegedly ordered the shooting of a Mirpur Bangla College student, Pallab, on Apr 5 1971.
The Second charge said the Jamaat leader had killed poet Meherunnisa, her mother and two brothers on Mar 27 at their Mirpur residence.
He had allegedly picked up journalist Khandkar Abu Taleb from Arambagh area and slaughtered him in the Jalladkhana Pump House on Mar 29, according to the third charge.
The fourth charge stated Molla had led a group of Razakars and killed hundreds of unarmed villagers in Keraniganj’s Bhawl Khanbari and Ghatarchar areas. The prosecution could not prove this charge, the verdict said.
The fifth charge alleged that the Jamaat leader went to Alokdi village on Apr 24, along with the Pakistan army and a band of Razakars, and went on a killing spree. Over 344 residents of the village were killed in the massacre.
BBN/SSR/AD-06Feb13-2:30 pm (BST)