Death penalty for Shakhawat
He had incited his cohorts to annihilate freedom fighters and pro-liberation Bangalees at a meeting in the Bangla month of Shraban in 1971. Two months later, Shakhawat Hossain led his men to abduct, confine, torture and kill people in Jessore.
As a commander of a Razakar camp at Chingra in Keshabpur, he directly took part in the killings and rape, while in some cases he unleashed his gang to commit similar crimes.
He did not express any remorse or repentance for his role in 1971 and instead of being punished for the heinous crimes, Shakhawat was rehabilitated after 1975.
He got involved with the politics of Jamaat, BNP and Jatiya Party and went on to become a lawmaker twice of a country whose very creation he and his men had vehemently opposed in 1971.
Forty-five years later, justice caught up with him as a special tribunal yesterday sentenced him to hang for the crimes. The International Crimes Tribunal-1 also sentenced seven of Shakhawat's cohorts jail until death.
“All the crimes proved are found to have had a causal relation to the inciting and provoking speech delivered by accused Md Shakhawat Hossain encouraging the Razakars to annihilate the freedom fighters and pro-liberation people terming them 'Kafers and Monafeks'. It also aggravates the level of culpability of accused Md Shakhawat Hossain,” the tribunal said.
“We are of the view that justice would be met if convict accused Md Shakhawat Hossain who has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the offences of which he has been charged with in respect of charge no 2 and 4 are condemned and sentenced to the highest punishment,” it added.
Those who were handed down jail until death are Billal Hossain Biswas, 75, Ibrahim Hossain, 60, Mujibur Rahman, 61, Kazi Ohidul Islam, 61, Aziz Sardar, 65, Aziz Sardar (2), 66, and Abdul Khaleque Morol, 68. All the convicts are from Keshabpur upazila of Jessore.
Shakhawat, 61, a former Jamaat and BNP lawmaker and now a Jatiya Party leader, and Billal are now in jail while the rest are on the run. The name of Lutfor Morol, 69, another accused in the case, was dropped from the case as he died of old-age complications during the trial.
On the execution of the convict, the tribunal said he could be executed “by hanging or shooting.” About the fugitives, the tribunal directed the home secretary and the inspector general of police to ensure their arrest, if need be, with the help of Interpol.
With the latest verdict, two war crimes tribunal have so far delivered 26 judgements. Fifty people were convicted, including 28 sentenced to death, of the crimes they committed during the Liberation War.
Yesterday, a three-member tribunal led by Justice Anwarul Haque with members Justice Md Shahinur Islam and Justice Md Shohrowardi took seats around 10:30am.
Before delivering the judgment, Justice Anwarul Haque said he and Justice Shahinur Islam prepared a judgment while Justice Shohrowardi prepared a separate judgment in the case.
But the three judges gave unanimous views regarding sentences of the convicts, the chairman said. Later, Justice Anwarul Haque and Justice Shahinur Islam read out summary from their judgements.
Prosecutor Zead Al Malum said the prosecution was happy with the judgment as they had been able to prove all five charges. He hoped the victims' family members and the countrymen would find some solace from the verdict.
He also urged the law enforcers to take “visible steps” to arrest the fugitives.
Defence counsel Abdus Sattar Palwan, however, said he would challenge the verdict with the Supreme Court upon consulting with his clients.
According to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, a war crimes convict can file an appeal with the SC within 30 days from the date of the verdict's pronouncement.
CHARGES AND PUNISHMENT
According to the case documents, Shakhawat was a central committee member of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, and he was the commander of Razakar force at Chingra Bazar camp in Jessore during the Liberation War. The others were members of the Pakistani occupation army's auxiliary force.
“The atrocious activities carried out by the accused persons directing pro-liberation civilians of a particular rural area portray a fragmented picture of horrific atrocities carried out in the territory of Bangladesh in 1971,” the tribunal said.
It said all the crimes happened at the Chingra Razakar camp and on the bank of the river adjacent to it by keeping the victims -- non-combatant freedom fighters and sources of freedom fighters -- in captivity there on forcible capture.
“The Razakar camp was not only a 'detention centre' but it turned into a 'crimes den' indeed over which accused Md Shakhawat Hossain had a significant dominance...,” it said.
The tribunal handed down 20 years rigorous imprisonment to Shakhawat, Ibrahim, Aziz and Aziz (2) for their roles in capturing and raping a woman, who was a source of freedom fighters.
It handed down death penalty to Shakhawat for killing local Awami League leader Chadtullo Gazi after keeping him confined at the Razakar camp for four days. His seven cohorts were given jail until death for the same offences.
Shakhawat, Mujibur and Khaleque were given 10 years' rigorous imprisonment for brutally torturing freedom fighter Nuruddin Morol of Chingra. Nuruddin, however, was released later after giving a bond.
Another accused Ibrahim was acquitted of the charge.
The tribunal awarded Shakhawat death penalty for torturing and killing Malek Sardar, a source of freedom fighter. His associates Ibrahim, Aziz, Aziz (2) and Khaleque were given jail until death for the same offences.
Shakhawat, Ibrahim, Aziz, Aziz (2) and Khaleque were sentenced to 15 years' rigorous imprisonment for torturing freedom fighter Miron Sheikh.
The sentences of imprisonment will run concurrently and other sentences will be merged with the execution of death penalty, the tribunal said.