The International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday sentenced five Netrakona men, including a local Awami League leader, to death for their alleged involvement in crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.
All the five were involved with the Razakar Bahini, an auxiliary force of Pakistani army, and committed crimes including abduction, torture, confinement, killing and rape in Phubodhala upazila in the district during the war.
“The convicted accused persons had acted collectively as a 'pack of wolves' with vicious aggression in perpetrating these crimes…” the tribunal said.
The convicted criminals are Abdul Majid alias Majit Moulana, 70, Abdul Khalek Talukder, 71, Kabir Khan, 75, Salam Begh, 65, and Nur Uddin alias Raddin, 62.
“Despite being Bengali, the accused persons opted to remain engaged with barbaric and monstrous acts, in exercise of their membership in said para-militia auxiliary force [Razakar Bahini],” the tribunal said.
All the accused were tried in absentia as they had been on the run and did not appear before the tribunal even after publication of advertisements asking them to do so.
All of them were involved either with the Muslim League or the Nezam-e-Islami, two anti-liberation parties, and joined the Razakar Bahini during the war.
After independence, Majid got involved with the Jamaat-e-Islami while Kabir, Salam and Nur Uddin with the BNP.
Khalek first joined the BNP, and subsequently moved to the Jatiya Party and the Jamaat before joining the Awami League in 1996. Later, he became a member of Purbodhola Thana AL Committee.
Yesterday, the tribunal asked the Home Secretary and Inspector General of Police to take necessary measures to ensure their arrest.
Tribunal's Chairman Justice Md Shahinur Islam and members Justice Amir Hossain and Justice Md Abu Ahmed Jamadar read out the summary of the 240-page verdict in presence of the prosecution, investigators, defence and journalists.
Prosecutor Mukhlesur Rahman Badal expressed satisfaction as they have been able to prove all seven charges.
Gazi MH Tamim, state-appointed defence counsel, however, said he was aggrieved with the verdict as all the accused were implicated in the case out of political rivalry.
The defence said his clients took stance for a local Awami League candidate in 2008 general election when one official of the investigating agency too contested the election as an independent candidate from the same constituency.
Abdul Hannan Khan, the chief of the investigation agency, however, denied the allegations saying that he, as the chief, would have resigned from the agency if the allegation was proved during the trial.
With the latest verdict, the war crimes tribunals have so far delivered 36 judgments against 85 people. Of them, 59 have been sentenced to death.
According to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, a war crimes convict can file an appeal with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date when the verdict is pronounced.
CRIMES AND PUNISHMENT
The tribunal found Majid, Khalek and Kabir guilty of abduction, looting and murder of three Hindu men, including one Hem Sundar Bagchi, in Rajpara village on May 1, 1971 and awarded them jail until death.
The court found Majid and Khalek guilty of abduction, confinement and torture of Abdul Gani Sarker alias Charu Miah in Barha village and sentenced 10 years in prison.
Majid and Khalek were found guilty of abduction, torture and murder of one Abdul Khalek of Barha village on August 21 and given death penalty.
Majid, Khalek, Salam and Nur Uddin were found guilty of abduction, torture and killing of one Mohir Uddin of the same village on August 27, and given death penalty.
All the accused were found guilty of abduction, torture and killing of four pro-liberation people in between November 12 and 16 in different parts of Purbodhala and given death penalty
They were given death penalty after finding them guilty of abduction, torture and murder of one Siraj Mondol of Purbo Moudam village on November 20.
Majid, Khalek and Kabir were found guilty of raping a woman in Purbobudi village.
However, the jail term would naturally be merged into the death sentence, the tribunal said.
“IT SHOCKS THE HUMANKIND TOO”
While giving observations on rape charge, the tribunal noted that rapes committed during the war were rather a tactic of war to dehumanize people and instill terror in the civilians and also intended to destabilize the community.
“Rape thus not only devastates victim's supreme worth but it stamps extreme trauma and stigma to victim which she carries till rest of her life. It shocks the humankind too,” the tribunal said.
“When rape is used as a weapon instead of a bullet, the weapon continues to exert its effect beyond the primary victim and it eventually outrages the civility,” it added.
“Victim's sacrifice added a lot to the war of liberation and thus she deserves appropriate recognition and honour which may reduce her trauma and pain,” it added.