The International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Monday set January 30 for order whether it would indict war crimes accused Syed Mohammad Qaiser, a former junior minister during Gen (retd) HM Ershad regime.
After hearing both the defence and the prosecution over the charge framing matter, the three-member tribunal, headed by Justice Obaidul Hassan, fixed the date for order on the issue. . Moving the discharge plea, Abdus Sobhan Tarafder, the counsel for Qaiser, claimed that his client cannot be tried on charges of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War as he was earlier tried on the same offence under the Collaborators Act, 1972.
Referring to the principles of double jeopardy, the defence counsel said article 35 (2) of the constitution bars repeated criminal prosecution for the same offence.
Opposing the defence argument, designated prosecutor Rana Dasgupta told the tribunal that it is true that article 35 (2) of the constitution prohibits prosecution and punishment twice for the ‘same offence’. But, on mere reading of the preamble of the Collaborators Order 1972, it cannot be said that the offences under it are the same offences as mentioned in the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, he said.
Prosecutor Dasgupta further said there is a separate and distinct new criminal offence with separate defining elements under the ICT Act of 1973 for which one may be prosecuted without violating the common law double jeopardy prohibition.
During the proceedings, paraplegic Qaiser, now enjoying bail, was present in the dock.
On August 5 last year, responding to a petition, the tribunal granted him bail, subject to conditions, on medical and humanitarian grounds.
Septuagenarian Qaiser, a turncoat politician, was arrested on May 21 last year in connection with the war crimes case.
On November 14 last year, after perusing the formal charge with 18 count offences submitted by the prosecution and the relevant documents, the tribunal took cognizance of the formal charge as it found prima facie case against the accused under sections 3(2) and 4(1) (2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
According to the investigation agency, after the independence of Bangladesh, Qaiser, a former Pakistan Convention Muslim League activist, entered politics by joining BNP and subsequently became the president of Habiganj BNP. Later, he quit BNP to join Ershad’s Jatiya Party and became a state minister for agriculture in 1989. Latest information says that he joined the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Col (retd) Oli Ahmed.
Qaiser, as a local Peace Committee leader during the Liberation War, had formed a vigilante group ‘Qaiser Force’ after his name comprising 500-700 of his trusted men in Habiganj and committed crimes against humanity, including genocide, in collaboration with the Pakistani occupation army.
At the latter part of the Liberation War, he fled to London and returned to the country after the August 1975 political changeover.