DEATH for Jamaat's 'moneyman'
It was a “death factory” in 1971.
Perhaps no other phrase can better describe the horrors that unfolded in Al-Badr's Chittagong headquarters, where the militiamen would torture and kill freedom fighters and pro-liberation activists hauled up from across the region.
The harrowing tales of brutalities committed there 43 years ago still haunt many in the port city.
Mir Quasem Ali, the man who presided over that camp at Mahamaya Dalim Hotel in Anderkilla, finally stands to pay for the crimes he committed during the Liberation War.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday sentenced him to death for abduction, torture and murder of a teenaged freedom fighter and two civilians.
Led by Justice Obaidul Hassan, the tribunal found him guilty on 10 of the 14 charges of abducting, confining and torturing people at the "death factory".
While pronouncing the verdict, Justice Obaidul Hassan said the offences, for which Quasem was sentenced to death, "indubitably falls within the kind of such gravest crimes which trembles the collective conscience of mankind".
The 62-year-old convicted war criminal, who never repented for his crimes, looked nonchalant. Grinning, he flashed a V-sign when he was taken to the prison van.
Yesterday's verdict came three days after the Tribunal-1 on Wednesday handed down death to Al-Badr kingpin and Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami in a war crimes case.
Both the tribunals have so far convicted 12 war criminals including seven Jamaat leaders for war-time crimes.
The tribunal in a unanimous verdict awarded Quasem the capital punishment for abduction, torture and killing of 15-year-old freedom fighter Jasim of Sandwip.
"Mir Quasem Ali played a very revengeful role in eliminating freedom fighters and as a part of accomplishing such culpable mission he in a pre-planned way had made [a] juvenile freedom fighter abducted by his notorious accomplices, member of Al Badr Forces," Justice Obaidul Hassan said.
"The manner the victim was gruesomely tortured and subsequent carrying his severely wounded body for dumping like a beast shakes the conscience of any sensible human being," he added.
The court yesterday sentenced Quasem to death by a majority verdict on another charge; it was for abducting, torturing and killing Ranjit Das alias Lathu and Tuntu Sen alias Raju of Chittagong town.
Two out of three judges of ICT-2 found him guilty of the crime while Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah acquitted him of this charge, setting the first-ever example of split verdict of war crime tribunals since its formation in 2010. The other member of the tribunal is Justice Md Shahinur Islam.
Quasem was also sentenced to seven to 20 years' imprisonment on eight charges of abduction, confinement and torture of 20 named and several other unnamed victims.
Except for the abductions, crimes committed by Quasem as mentioned in the 10 charges, were committed at the Dalim Hotel camp.
“The evidence presented proves it beyond reasonable doubt that the harrowing dynamics of terror, violence, torture impeccably demonstrate that the system of cruelties and terror even transformed to brutal murder of many detained civilians in the 'death factory' of AB force headquartered at Dalim Hotel,” read the verdict.
“It has been proved that the accused Mir Quasem Ali had been in steering and guiding position of the AB force headquartered at Dalim Hotel which was a 'death factory' indeed.”
The tribunal, however, acquitted him of the other four charges, as the prosecution failed to prove his involvement in torture, confinement and abduction of six and several other unnamed persons.
As the judges started reading out the summary of the 351-page verdict at 10:45am in a packed courtroom, Quasem was seen sitting unruffled. Wearing a light blue shirt under a coat, he sat in the dock at 10:43am with a salam.
He then sat cross-legged on the chair. Throughout the time, he was seen shifting his legs from time to time, tapping his fingers on his thighs and handles of the chair and changing his posture frequently with a sneer of smile on his lips.
As the judge started reading out the sentence, he appeared turning serious.
"Devils…devils," he screamed, as soon as they sentenced him to hang until death.
As the judges left the courtroom he shouted: "False events, false witnesses, black law...dictated verdict. Lies will defeat and the truth will win soon... soon!"
Family members of victims and justice seekers hailed the verdict. War veterans outside the court also greeted the judgment with cheers.
The defence counsels, however, said they were aggrieved at the verdict and said they will appeal against it.
Under the law, a war crimes convict can file appeal with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of the verdict's pronouncement.
Quasem was taken to Dhaka Central Jail from the tribunal and put in the condemn cell in the afternoon.
His party called a countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal for Thursday.
Quasem was the president of Chittagong town unit Islami Chhatra Sangha, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, until November 6, 1971. He was then made general secretary of East Pakistan Chhatra Sangha.
After the Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators faced defeat on December 16, 1971, Mir Quasem went into hiding.
But years later, he re-emerged, and subsequently assumed the role of the chief financier of Jamaat-e-Islami.
He had been leading a lavish life until his arrest on June 17, 2012 from the office of the daily Naya Diganta, a concern of Diganta Media Corporation of which he was the chairman.
After his indictment in September last year, it took about 14 months to complete the trial proceedings.
ICT-2 Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan in the judgment said only the highest sentence would be just and appropriate to punish for those crimes.
Announcing the punishment, he said a sense of closure to the darkest chapter in the history of Bangalee nation needs to be brought to end impunity for the barbaric atrocities committed in 1971, for strengthening the rule of law and also to set an example.