A special court in Dhaka today awarded death penalty to Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan for their offences during Bangladesh's war of independence 42 years back.
The judgement was delivered in absence of the convicts as the International Crimes Tribunal-2′s efforts to get them in the dock failed.
All the eleven charges levelled against Mueen and Ashraf by the prosecution were proved beyond doubt, Justice Obaidul Hassan, head judge of the International Crimes Tribunal-2, announced in a jam-packed courtroom in the afternoon.
The convicts received death penalty for abduction and killing of nine DhakaUniversity teachers, six eminent journalists and three physicians in December 1971 with the intent that the new nation becomes devoid of intellectuals.
This is the ninth verdict in the sensational war crimes trial that was initiated 42 years into the country's birth and the Jamaat-e-Islami is strongly against it.
The death sentence will be executed after the arrest or surrender of the convicts, the tribunal chief said.
The judgement was pronounced at 12:48pm after reading out of a 41-page excerpt of the 154-page verdict.
Earlier, the tribunal started its day’s proceedings at 11:00am.
Al-Badr operation-in-charge Mueen is now in London where he has made his name as a community leader. Apart from serving as the chairman of Tottenham Mosque, he also became the director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the National Health Service of the UK, the prosecution said.
Ashraf, chief executor of Al-Badr, is now in New York and has been involved in the conservative Islami Circle of North America.
This is the second war crimes case that is going on with the accused absent.
The first case was against expelled Jamaat-e-Islami member Abul Kalam Azad who was awarded capital punishment.
Right after the war and liberation of Bangladesh, newspapers carried photos of Mueen and Ashraf asking people to help capture the two “killers and Al-Badr leaders”.
The trial of Mueen and Ashraf was done within just over three months largely because the tribunal-appointed defence lawyers did not have the cooperation of the families of the accused.
The lawyers could not even get one defence witness to testify whereas the prosecution brought in 25.
Thirty days after completing the case proceedings, tribunal-2 on Thursday fixed today for announcing the verdict.
The prosecution and the defence placed their closing arguments between September 23 and September 30.
In their closing arguments, the prosecution said the duo “deserved” capital punishment for the crimes “they had committed” in 1971 while the defence sought acquittals claiming that the prosecution “failed to prove the charges”.
The charges are related to the abduction and killing of 18 intellectuals and professionals.
LIST OF VICTIMS KILLED BY MUEEN, ASHRAF
Dhaka University teachers Prof Mofazzal Haider Choudhury, Prof Munier Chowdhury, Prof Giasuddin Ahmed, Prof Sirajul Haque Khan, Dr Abul Khayer, Dr Faizul Mohiuddin, Prof Rashidul Hasan, Prof Anwar Pasha, Prof Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya, journalists Serajuddin Hossain, Syed Najmul Haque, ANM Golam Mostafa, Nizam Uddin Ahmed, Selina Pervin, Shahidullah Kaiser, and physicians Fazle Rabbee, Alim Chaudhury and Mohammad Martuza.
WAR CRIMES TRIAL PROGRESS REPORT
The two tribunals dealing with the war crimes cases have so far delivered verdicts in eight 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 Mojaheed on January 21, May 9 and July 17 of this year respectively.
The tribunal also awarded former BNP minister Abdul Alim imprisonment till death on October 9 for committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 War of Independence.
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.