Qaiser gets death penalty for war crimes
Court Correspondent The International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Tuesday condemned Syed M Qaiser of Habiganj, a former state minister during HM Ershad’s military regime in the mid-80s, to death for perpetrating crimes against humanity, including rape and genocide, during the 1971 Liberation War. With the 74-year-old turncoat politician in the dock, tribunal chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan, flanked by its two other members -- Justice M Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice M Shahinur Islam -- pronounced the summary of its 8th judgment containing 484 pages at 12:15 pm in a crowded courtroom after four months of closing the trial. Qaiser who faced 16 counts of charges was awarded capital punishment on seven counts of charges like murder, mass rape and mass killing as crimes against humanity while imprisonment unto death on four counts of charges and different terms imprisonment on three counts of charges. The tribunal, however, acquitted him of two charges -- loot, arson and killing three people at Madhabpur and one at Shahpur village, Habiganj-- as the prosecution failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt. “Convict Qaiser be hanged by neck till he is dead,” said ICT-2 chairman Justice Hassan, in the crowded courtroom, merging all other sentences into the death penalty. “The sentences and convictions were unanimous,” he said. Before delivering the judgment, police in compliance with the tribunal order had brought accused Qaiser in its lock-up at 8:50 am amid tight security in and around the tribunal at the century-old High Court building. The tribunal sat at 11:03 am. Emerging from the tribunal, the prosecution expressed its satisfaction over the judgment as it has been able to prove 14 charges out of 16 by producing documents and 32 prosecution witnesses (PWs), including IO ASP (retd) Monwara Begum while defence counsel SM Shahjahan without making any remarks on the judgment told reporters that they would go for appeal against the verdict with a hope of acquittal. Prosecutor Dr Tureen Afroz dedicated the judgment to the 1971 Liberation War babies and ‘Biranganas’ now recognised as freedom fighters by the present government, who were violated by the Pakistan occupation army and its cohorts during the Liberation War. In the judgment, the tribunal conversely turned down the first-ever prosecution claim in awarding compensation to the 1971 rape victim as the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 does not provide any such provision, saying, “In absence of any provision, guidelines and mechanism regarding authority mere passing order on awarding reparation in favour of the victim would be futile exercise of power and will be tantamount to show judicial activism which is not desirable as it is not permissible in law.” “In view of the observation, the very submission of the prosecution has got no substance and thus turned down,” contended the tribunal. The tribunal, however, in its observation left the topic to be looked into positively by the government and the NGOs as well. On Monday, the tribunal fixed Tuesday for delivering its judgment. After formally closing law-point arguments from both sides, the tribunal on August 20 kept its judgment pending to be delivered any day and sent accused Qaiser to jail revoking its August 5 last year conditional bail granted on medical and humanitarian grounds. On February 2 this year, the tribunal indicted Qaiser for his involvement in crimes against humanity, including genocide during the 1971 Liberation War. Qaiser was arrested on May 21 last year in connection with the war crimes case. On November 14, 2013, the tribunal took cognisance 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 Bangladesh’s independence, Qaiser, a former Pakistan Convention Muslim League activist, entered politics by joining BNP and subsequently became the president of its Habiganj district unit. Later, he quit BNP to join Ershad’s Jatiya Party and became state minister for agriculture in 1989. According to information, he lately joined the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Col (retd) Oli Ahmad. 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 had fled to London and returned home after the August 1975 political changeover.