Posted by Salma Javid Khan
A Dhaka tribunal on Thursday handed death penalty to top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
The 73-year-old Jamaat nayeb-e-ameer was handed down the penalty for eight wartime criminal offences as his party enforced a shutdown threatening anarchy across the country.
The three-member tribunal said eight out of 20 charges pressed against Sayedee were proved beyond doubt. Sayedee received death penalties in two cases—filed for the killing of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisha Bali.
Disagreeing with the judgement vehemently, the convict stood up on the dock and blamed the judges for “not giving the verdict from the core of their heart”.
The verdict came due to the excessive pressure from “some atheists of Shahbagh”, he reacted.
Many present in the courtroom yelled at Sayedee to keep his mouth shut, calling him “promanito razakar”, which means a proved collaborator.
At 2:23pm, the convict was taken out of the tribunal premises in a prison van and was taken to Dhaka Central Jail.
Defence to appeal
Saying they are aggrieved at the verdict, Sayedee’s relatives and counsels said they would appeal against it.
“While he (Sayedee) was not supposed to be jailed for even a single day, Sayedee has been awarded capital punishment. We must file an appeal,” Tarikul Islam, a member of the defence team, told reporters.
Masud Sayedee, the third son of the convict, alleged that the verdict was delivered to satisfy a “third party”. He however did not elaborate.
“We will go to the Supreme Court,” he told reporters on the court premises.
Justice Anwarul Haque of the International Crimes Tribunal-1 which held the trial started reading out the summary of the 120-page judgement in a heavily packed courtroom around 11:10am. After he read out certain parts of the summary, Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim read out rest of it.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, pronounced the punishment later as the proceedings came to an end at 1:40pm.
Earlier, a prison van carrying Sayedee entered the tribunal premises around 9:30am. He was first kept at the tribunal custody. Sayedee was moved to the tribunal shortly before the pronouncement of the judgement began.
Security was beefed up in and around the tribunal prior to the proclamation of the verdict.
Of the six top Jamaat leaders charged with crimes against humanity, Sayedee is the second to be convicted. In 1971, he served as an active member of Peace (Shanti) Committee which was instrumental against the birth of Bangladesh.
A former lawmaker elected with Jamaat ticket, Sayedee faced charges of crimes against humanity including looting, killing, arson, rape and forcefully converting people into Muslims during the Liberation War.
The 18-month-long proceedings of the case at Tribunal-1 had to negotiate difficult hurdles, including the “Skype controversy”, reconstitution of Tribunal-1 and rehearing of closing arguments.
Thursday’s verdict was the maiden judgement of the ICT-1. But it is the third war crimes verdict to be delivered.
International Crimes Tribunal-2, the other court dealing with the war crimes offences, sentenced Jamaat assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison on February 5 for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.
The same tribunal, earlier on January 21, gave death sentence to expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, for genocide and murder.
Like the day the verdict in Quader Mollah’s case was delivered, Jamaat enforced a countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal Thursday assuming that “an unjust punishment would be awarded to Sayedee”.
Jamaat played an active role to foil the freedom struggle of Bangladesh and helped the Pakistani occupational forces to that end. During the nine-month war, the Pak army along with its collaborators killed about three million Bangalees and violated more than a quarter million women.
One of the charges cites Sayedee’s involvement in the killing of three Bangalee government officials in the then sub-division of Pirojpur and throwing their bodies in the Baleshwar river.
Foyzur Rahman Ahmed, a police officer and father of eminent writer Humayun Ahmed and noted educationalist-writer Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, was among the three. The two others were deputy magistrate Saif Mizanur Rahman and sub-divisional officer (in-charge) Abdur Razzak.
During the Liberation War, Sayedee along with other armed Razakars kept Bipod Saha’s daughter Vanu Saha confined to their home at Parerhat under Pirojpur Sadar Police Station and regularly raped her there.
Being a member of collaborator force Razakar, Sayedee exercised his power to convert 100-150 Hindus of Parerhat and other villages into Muslims and forced them to go to mosque to pray.
On May 4, 1971, Sayedee as a member of Peace (Shanti) Committee informed the Pakistan army about a secret gathering of a group of people behind the Madhya Masimpur bus-stand in Pirojpur and took the army to the spot. The army killed 20 people.
On that day, Sayedee along with his accomplices looted valuables of members of the Hindu community living in Masimpur Hindu Para. They also set the houses of Hindus ablaze and opened fire on the people who were fleeing the scene. At least 13 people were killed then.
Sayedee was arrested on June 29, 2010 in a case filed in connection with hurting religious sentiment of Muslims.
He was shown arrested in the war crimes case later.
The investigation agency, designated to deal with war crimes probes, handed over its report on Sayedee to the prosecution on May 31, 2011, and the prosecution on July 11, 2011, submitted formal charges against Sayedee.
The Tribunal-1 took the charges into cognisance on July 14, 2011.
He was indicted on October 4, 2011.
On November 20, 2011, the prosecution placed its opening statement and started to produce their witnesses on December 7, 2011.
The defence began producing their witness on September 2, 2012.
Following repeated failure to produce witnesses, the Tribunal-1 closed defence witness testimony recording.
The defence and prosecution completed placing their closing arguments between November 5, 2012, and December 6, 2012.
The Tribunal-1 reheard the closing arguments between January 13, 2013, and January 29, 2012.
Tajul Islam, a defence lawyer of Sayedee’s case, told The Daily Star Wednesday evening that they were yet to decide whether they would show up for verdict delivery due to the hartal.
Demo demanding Sayedee’s death
Thousands of youths who burst into protest after announcement of verdict in Mollah’s case and have been continuing demonstration at Shahbagh since then, gathered at Shahbagh Projonmo Chattar Wednesday evening to resist Jamaat and its student body Islami Chhatra Shibir’s possible violence and covert attacks.
The Shahbagh protesters said they would celebrate and return home in elation after Sayedee had been awarded the death penalty.
They would continue with their agitation if the verdict fell short of their expectations, they added.