A special tribunal in Dhaka Wednesday awarded former BNP minister Abdul Alim imprisonment till death for committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 War of Independence.
“Abdul Alim deserves death. But, his poor health condition and disability to move are the reason that he has been sentenced to jail for the rest of his life,” pronounced Justice Obaidul Hassan, chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal-2.
Nine out of 17 charges levelled against the 83-year-old three times lawmaker from the main opposition party, BNP, were proved beyond doubt.
Alim got the life-term jail in four war crimes charges, 20-year imprisonment in four cases each and 10-year in one charge.
In a jam-packed courtroom, Justice Md Shahinur Islam, a judge on the three-member panel of ICT-2, started reading out a summary of the verdict at 10:53am.
After reading out of the summary of 191-page verdict, the chairman of the panel pronounced the judgement.
Earlier, Alim was produced before the ICT-2 at 10:35am.
A contingent of security men guarded Alim as he was taken to the prison cell of the tribunal around 9:45am in an ambulance from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
The BNP leader was undergoing treatment at the BSMMU since his bail was cancelled on September 22.
Alim is the second BNP leader convicted of the war crimes.
Earlier on October 1, ICT-1 awarded death penalty to BNP lawmaker Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for his wartime offences.
The judgment on Alim is the eighth by the International Crimes Tribunal since its establishment in March 2010.
The tribunal on Tuesday announced the date for delivery of the judgement.
Earlier on September 22, the three-member panel of the tribunal kept Alim case CAV (Curia Advisari Vult, a Latin legal term meaning verdict would be delivered anytime).
A member of late president Ziaur Rahman’s cabinet, Alim, had been on conditional bail since March 31, 2011, four days after his arrest, on health grounds.
On September 22, as the case proceedings ended, the tribunal also cancelled the bail of Alim and sent him to jail.
The prosecution produced 35 witnesses, including the investigation officer of the case, and submitted a number of documents to prove Alim’s involvement in war crimes.
The defence produced three witnesses, including Alim’s son, and several documents to prove their client’s alibi that he had been hiding during the Liberation War.
Wrapping up the closing arguments, the prosecution sought death penalty for Alim, claiming that they had proved the charges against the accused beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.
On the other hand, Alim pleaded not guilty and the defence said the prosecution could not prove any charge brought against him and sought his acquittal on all charges.
This is the shortest time taken for disposing of a war crimes case. The second lowest time was 18 days in the case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah.
Prosecutor Advocate Rana Das Gupta expressed his dissatisfaction over the sentence of Alim.
“We have expected capital punishment (for Alim). Had the judgement reflected the expectation of the nation, we would be satisfied,” advocate Rana Das Gupta, told reporters in his immediate reaction over the judgement.
Meanwhile, another prosecutor Zead Al Malum said the verdict would be considered as a milestone in establishing justice in the country that had been witnessing unjust for long.
“We are satisfied and have accepted the verdict,” he said in his reaction immediately after the verdict.
“Alim should have to be awarded death penalty. He was given imprisonment until death considering his physical disability,” Zead added.
Born on November 1, 1930 in West Bengal of India, Alim with his family migrated to Joypurhat in 1950-51. In 1958, he joined the Muslim League. He was a top leader of the Convention Muslim League and vice-chairman of Bogra District Council in 1971, according to the prosecution.
Alim allegedly established a peace committee office and a training centre for Razakars and arranged accommodation for Pakistani Major Afzal, occupying the Gadi Ghar (trading office) of Shownlal Bajla of Joypurhat. Shownlal and his family members had been compelled to go to India.
After independence, Alim was put in jail under the Collaborators Act-1972. But when Ziaur Rahman took over the helm of the country, he made Alim a minister in 1978.
Alim also joined Zia’s newly-formed BNP at that time. He was elected lawmaker from Joypurhat in the 1979, 1996 and 2001 elections, according to defence and prosecution documents.
The agency designated to probe war crimes began the investigation into the allegations against Alim in March 2011 and submitted a report to the prosecution in January 2012.
Sazzad bin Alim, son of Abdul Alim, yesterday said the accused was undergoing treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for complications in his lungs.
WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL PROGRESS REPORT
The two tribunals dealing with the war crimes cases have so far delivered verdicts in seven cases.
The Tribunal-2 awarded death penalty to expelled Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad, Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad on January 21, May 9 and July 17 of this year respectively.
The Tribunal-1 awarded Jamaat Nayeb-e-Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee and BNP standing committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury death penalty on February 28 and October 1 for their war time offences.
It also awarded 90-year jail to former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam on July 15, while Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah was given life sentence on February 5 by Tribunal-2.
The Supreme Court on September 17 awarded death penalty to Mollah, responding to appeals against the trial court verdict.
The Tribunal-2, which tried alleged Al-Badr leaders Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan in absentia, is also set to deliver its verdict any day.