The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday wrapped up the closing arguments of former state minister Syed Mohammad Qaisar's case and kept it waiting for verdict delivery.
However, cases pending verdict delivery have been piling up, three with Tribunal-1 and two with Tribunal-2, which are frustrating justice seekers.
Led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam, the tribunal yesterday sent the 74-year-old accused to jail, cancelling his bail.
The prosecution sought the capital punishment and compensation for the victims and the defence wanted Qaisar's acquittal.
Qaisar, the alleged founder of anti-liberation Qaisar Bahini, faces 16 charges, including genocide, committed in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria during the Liberation War. The accused had pleaded not guilty. Qaisar, also the alleged local leader of Razakar and Peace Committee, two anti-liberation forces, was arrested in the capital on May 21 last year. He was granted bail in August the same year on health grounds.
Son of Muslim League leader Syed Soeed Uddin Ahmed of Itakhola in Madhabpur of Habiganj, Qaisar was affiliated with Muslim League, BNP and Jatiya Party in his political career. In 1988, he became a state minister of Bangladesh, the birth of which he vehemently opposed in 1971.
According to the prosecution, the accused formed Qaisar Bahini, a local militia force, comprising 400-500 people to assist the Pakistan army and he and his force took part in and abetted commissioning of crimes in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria during the nine-month war.
One of the 16 charges says, Qaisar had “participated in and abetted” an act of genocide in 22 villages under Nasirnagar upazila in Brahmanbaria that left 108 people, mostly Hindus, dead.
While countering defence arguments yesterday, Prosecutor Tureen Afroz said Qaisar Bahini had worked as an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army in 1971 and it had an “operational, administrative, static relationship” with the army.
“Qaisar was the gang leader of the 1971 Qaisar Bahini and as such Syed Mohammad Qaisar must be found guilty of the atrocities committed by him personally as well as by the Qaisar Bahini on which he had the commanding authority,” she argued.
Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta said Qaisar had played the “role of a dragon” in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria during the war. On behalf of the inhabitants of the area, the prosecution sought his capital punishment.
The prosecution produced 32 witnesses, mostly freedom fighters and victim family members, and documents to prove the charges.
Qaisar's defence claimed that their client did not form any force named “Qaisar Bahini” and that there was no such force in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria during the war.
Incidents of crimes mentioned in the charges might have been committed but their client was not involved in any war-time crimes, they claimed.
The defence did not produce any witness saying they did not feel the need since the prosecution could not prove any charges, they said.
Qaisar has been enjoying bail since August last year but the prosecution yesterday raised questions about his sickness. Qaisar usually appears before the court in a wheelchair.
Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta said Qaisar walked into the courtroom after his arrest last year but he started using wheelchairs after seeking bail. “We saw his hand trembling inside the courtroom, but it all stopped when he came out,” Rana said.
After the court proceeding, Rana said they assume that the accused “faked being sick” to avert the capital punishment, as the court usually does not hand down capital punishment to a sick person.
In March, the prosecution had asked for his bail to be cancelled for allegedly threatening a prosecution witness but the tribunal did not cancel the bail.
As per tribunal's order, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University submitted a report on Qaisar's health in April.
The content of the report could not be known.
Qaisar's lawyer SM Shahjahan said they had a medical certificate in support of this illness.
The case against Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami has been waiting for verdict delivery since November last year. As the defence repeatedly failed to show up in court for closing arguments, Tribunal-1 concluded the case proceedings.
The court later allowed the defence to place arguments and the trial finally ended on November 20.
In January this year, chairman of Tribunal-1 Justice ATM Fazle Kabir retired without delivering the judgment. The tribunal was reconstituted on February 23 with Justice M Enayetur Rahim as its chief.
The new chairman decided to hear the closing arguments again. The verdict was kept waiting again on March 24.
Tribunal-1 fixed June 24 to deliver verdict but could not deliver as Nizami suddenly fell sick hours before.
The tribunal has also not delivered the judgements of cases against Faridpur BNP leader Zahid Hossain Khokon and Brahmanbaria Awami League leader Mobarak Hossain. The cases ended on April 17 and on June 2.
Tribunal-2 kept the case against Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali waiting for verdict since May 4.
Veteran war crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star, “The justice-seeking nation and families of the martyrs are frustrated.”
“The delay may affect the entire trial proceedings as people will lose interest in testifying,” said Shahriar, also the executive president of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, which campaigns for the trials.
“We hope the verdict of the pending cases will be delivered soon,” he said, adding that the delay would benefit Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been opposing the trial.