A special tribunal in Dhaka today handed death penalty to Mir Quasem Ali, infamous for leading Al-Badr force in torturing freedom fighters at a hotel in Chittagong, to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
Ten out of 14 charges have been proved against the 62-year-old, International Crimes Tribunal-2 announced while delivering the verdict.
As the third most powerful man of the Al-Badr force, Ali got highest penalty -- death sentence -- for two charges.
One charge is torture and killing of adolescent freedom fighter Jasim along with five unidentified people after Eid-ul-Fitr of 1971 at Dalim Hotel at Andorkilla in Chittagong after abduction. The other charge is kidnapping of Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, Ranjit Das Prokash Latu and Tuntu Sen in November, 1971. Latu and Tuntu were later killed and their bodies were never found.
Mir Quasem is known as a key financier of Jamaat, which was instrumental to block the birth of Bangladesh by collaborating with Pakistan occupation forces and carrying out crimes against humanity.
"The verdict was based on false witness accounts," defence counsel Mizanul Islam quoted the convict in his immediate reaction inside the court.
Alleging that they were deprived of justice, Islam said they would appeal with the Supreme Court where they expected of getting justice.
Justice Obaidul Hassan, chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-2, read out 11 out of the 351-page judgement.
Due to space constraint, the ICT-2 judges' panel delivered the verdict at ICT-1 courtroom.
Earlier, a prison van carrying Mir Quasem reached the court premises around 9:20am. He was produced before the court around 10:45am.
Apart from Mir Quasem, seven other top Jamaat leaders have already been sentenced for their 1971 crimes and two other top notches -- Abdus Subhan and ATM Azharul Islam -- are being tried in the war crimes tribunals.
GOVT HAPPY WITH VERDICT
The government is satisfied with the death penalty to Mir Quasem Ali and will take all legal steps to uphold the sentence if an appeal is lodged with the apex court, Law Minister Anisul Huq said today.
"We are happy with the verdict," the law minister told The Daily Star this afternoon. "We are satisfied because we are being able to meet the long-standing demand of people of Bangladesh to try the war criminals and deliver justice by punishing them."
"We are also thankful that we have been able to establish rule of law in the country through holding trial of crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War in 1971," he added.
"No criminal is above the law and it is now proved," the minister said.
"We will take all legal steps to uphold the death sentence of Mir Quasem at the Appellate Division if an appeal is lodged with the Supreme Court."
Earlier today, a war crimes tribunal handed death penalty to former notorious Al-Badr leader and Jamaat-e-Islami financier Mir Quasem for crimes committed against humanity during Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
The 14 charges levelled against MirQuasem include murder committed in the city between November and December 16, 1971. He was allegedly the chief of Chittagong Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of Pakistani army.
Security has been beefed up in and around the court premises to ward off violence centring the verdict to be pronounced by International Crimes Tribunal-2 amid Jamaat-sponsored 48-hour hartal (shutdown). Jamaat is observing the second bout of its countrywide 72-hour hartal today protesting the capital punishment of its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami for his wartime offences.
Members of law enforcing agencies including police and Rapid Action Battalion have taken position at all the entries of the tribunal since this morning.
Transport movement has been halted from Doel Chattar to High Court Mazar since morning ahead of the verdict.
The prosecution sought capital punishment for Mir Quasem, a member of Jamaat's central executive council, claiming that they had been able to prove 12 out of 14 charges. Like always, the defence sought his acquittal saying the prosecution couldn't prove any charges.
On May 4, the Tribunal-2 concluded hearing the closing arguments in Quasem's case and kept the case awaiting verdict.
According to the prosecution, Quasem, president of Jamaat's then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha's (ICS's) Chittagong town unit, colluded with the Pakistan army, Jamaat, and other anti-liberation forces and formed Al-Badr force there in 1971.
Several Al-Badr camps were set up in Chittagong under Quasem's leadership for torturing and killing pro-liberation people. Quasem also had links with the Pak army and was directly involved in crimes like abduction, torture and murder in 1971, the prosecution said.
The prosecution produced 24 witnesses, mostly victims, and documents to prove the charges. It, however, could not produce any witness in support of two charges.
Mir Quasem was born to Mir Tayeb Ali and Rabeya Begum in Munsidangi Sutalori of Manikganj on December 31, 1952. He joined the ICS in 1967 when he was studying at Chittagong Collegiate School. Later, he became the president of Chittagong town unit ICS and on November 6, 1971, he became the general secretary of East Pakistan unit of the student body, according to prosecution documents.
When the ICS re-emerged as Islami Chhatra Shibir in 1977, he became its president and joined Jamaat as an activist in 1980. He now is a member of Jamaat's central executive council, the highest policy-making body of the Islamist party.
According to a defence petition filed on July 19, 2013, Quasem is the chairman of real estate company Keari Ltd and director of Diganta Media Corporation Ltd. He used to be a member secretary of Islami Bank Foundation and holds management positions in many other business ventures and organisations.
Quasem was arrested on June 17, 2012. The Tribunal-1 on May 26 took into cognisance the charges pressed by the prosecution and indicted him on 14 charges on September 5, 2013. On September 30, the case was transferred to the Tribunal-2.