The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Wednesday awarded death sentence to war crime convict Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami for crimes against humanity, including genocide and the murder of intellectuals, during the Liberation War in 1971.
With the 71-year-old Jamaat chief in the dock, tribunal Chairman Justice M Enayetur Rahim, flanked by two other members -- Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque -- pronounced the much-delayed verdict at 12:23 pm in a crowded courtroom.
“Convict Nizami will be hanged by neck till his death,” said the ICT-1 Chairman.
“The sentences and convictions were unanimous,” said Justice Rahim.
The 204-page judgment was read out by the tribunal judges in phases for 73 minutes that began at 11:12 am.
Hours after the judgment, Jamaat-e-Islami called a staggered 72-hour countrywide hartal in two phases from Thursday protesting Nizami’s death sentence for his war crimes.
Earlier, police brought Nizami to the tribunal amid tight security.
The tribunal sentenced Nizami, the I971 commander-in-chief of Al Badr, a secret killing squad of Jamaate -e-Islami, the capita punishment each on four counts of charges of war crimes, terming Al Badr a criminal outfit.
The three-member tribunal also sentenced Nizami, a former cabinet member during the BNP-Jamaat alliance’s rule (2001-06), to life term imprisonment each on four other war crime charges.
It, however, acquitted the incumbent boss of Jamaat-e-Islami of the eight other charges of crimes against humanity in 1971 as the prosecution failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt.
The prosecution examined 26 witnesses, including IO Abdur Razzak Khan, while the defence four, including Nizami’s son barrister Nazibur Rahman during the trial.
With the day’s pronouncement of judgment, the two ICTs have so far delivered 10 judgments since their formation in March 2010 and 2012 respectively, keeping pending six judgments to be delivered any day.
Among the war crimes cases, five Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Ghulam Azam, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, AAM Mujahid, Abdul Quader Mollah and M Kamaruzzaman and one expelled Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar and two Jamaat’s Al Badr operators Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and two BNP leaders Abdul Alim and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were punished.
The capital punishments were awarded on charges of conspiring to commit crimes and for causing the killings of 450 people, rape of 30-40 women and deportation of the villagers of Baushgari, Rupashi and Demra in Pabna on May 14, 1971, complicity in the murder, rape looting and destruction of property at Karamja of Pabna on May 8, 1971, command responsibility for and involvement in the murder of 30 people at Dhulaura village in Pabna on November 27, 1971 and planning and committing genocide to eliminate intellectuals and professionals.
Life term imprisonment was awarded for causing the arrest, detention, torture, and murder of three people, including head Maulana Kasim Uddin of Pabna Zilla School on June 4, 1971, complicity in torture, murder and rape at Mohammadpur Physical Training Institute in Dhaka, during the Liberation War and murder of Badi, Rumi Jewel and Azad at Old MP Hostel in Dhaka on August 30, 1971.
Emerging from the tribunal, Mohammad Ali, one of the prosecutors, expressed satisfaction over the judgment.
Talking to reporters, he said justice and the rule of law have been established with the judgment while Tajul Islam, one of the defence lawyers, termed the verdict ‘unjust’ and ‘emotion-driven’ one. “Some of its observations have gone beyond its jurisdiction,” he added. . Later, after meeting with war criminal convict Nizami in the tribunal’ s lockup, advocate Tajul, referring to his client, said the Jamaat leader asked his party leaders and workers to launch ‘non-violent’ protests against his capital punishment and not to resort to violent action.
Tajul further said he was instructed from his client to get ready for appeal against the death penalty.
The pronouncement of the judgment was deferred thrice on different grounds since November 13 last year. The reconstitution of the tribunal, rehearing on summing-up arguments from both sides and sudden sickness of the accused in custody are among the reasons behind the delay.
Earlier, Nizami was condemned to death in January this year in the sensational 10-truck arms haul case in Chittagong in 2004.
Nizami was indicted on May 28, 2012 with 16 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, genocide, loot, rape, incitement, planning, abetment, and killing intellectuals during the Liberation War.
On December 11, 2011, the prosecution submitted the formal charge against Nizami, also the president of the then all Pakistan ICS, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, before the tribunal.
The tribunal took cognizance of the formal charge on January 9, 2012 against Nizami for facing the trial of crimes against humanity during the country’s Liberation War.
On May 28, 2012, the tribunal indicted the Jamaat ameer for committing the 1971 crimes against humanity.
Nizami was arrested in front of the National Press Club on June 29, 2010 after a magistrate court in Dhaka issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a criminal case over hurting the religious sentiment of Muslims. Later, he was shown arrested in the war crimes case.
Syed Haider Ali, Zead Al Malum and Dr Tureen Afroz were, among others, appeared for the prosecution while Mizanul Islam, Tajul Islam and Tarikul Islam for Nizami.
War Crimes Trial Nizami awarded death penalty Jamaat calls 72-hr hartal in protest