Death stays for Death Designer
He masterminded the formation of a ruthless militia that unleashed terror on peace-loving Bangalees, killed unarmed civilians, raped women and destroyed properties during the 1971 Liberation War.
Towards the end of the nine-month war, the infamous militia -- Al-Badr Bahini -- committed “crimes of serious gravity intending to demean the human civilisation”.
Sensing Pakistan's imminent defeat, the notorious force systematically rounded up, tortured and killed the nation's brightest luminaries to intellectually cripple the soon-to-be independent Bangladesh.
The man behind all this was Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of Al-Badr Bahini, which played the role of an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army in 1971.
The Jamaat-e-Islami ameer, now 73, has never repented of the cold-blooded savagery.
Instead of getting punished for the heinous crimes, Nizami was rehabilitated after 1975. He gained immense political power and went on to become a minister during the BNP-led government's tenure between 2001 and 2006.
But justice caught up with him in October 2014 when a special tribunal sentenced him to death for the war crimes.
And yesterday, a Supreme Court bench unanimously upheld his death penalty for masterminding the killing of intellectuals and involvement in two incidents of mass killing of over 500 people in Pabna in 1971, paving the way for his execution.
Nizami is the third former minister after Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury to get death penalty for their notorious role during the war.
The Jamaat ameer now has the option of seeking review of the SC judgment after the release of the verdict's full text. If his review petition is rejected, he will get a chance to seek presidential clemency.
If Nizami decides not to seek clemency or is denied it, he will be the second Al-Badr top leader after Mojaheed to walk the gallows.
Jamaat secretary general Mojaheed, who had succeeded Nizami as Al-Badr chief towards the end of the war, was executed on November 22 last year.
In October 2014, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 gave Nizami death penalty on four charges and life imprisonment on four more charges. He then challenged the verdict at the apex court.
The SC yesterday upheld his death sentence on three charges and life imprisonment on two charges. It, however, acquitted him of the other three charges.
A four-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha pronounced the short verdict at 9:07am in a crowded courtroom. Tight security measures were put in place in and around the court.
The other three judges are Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Hasan Foez Siddique.
Justice seekers, war crimes campaigners, the prosecution and general people across the country were happy with the verdict.
People brought out processions and distributed sweetmeats in Nizami's birthplace Pabna where he had committed many war crimes.
In his reaction to the SC judgment, freedom fighter Zahir Uddin Jalal, also a prosecution witness in Nizami's case, said, “I am satisfied with the verdict... I urge the government to execute Motiur Rahman Nizami immediately and free the country from stigma.”
The Jamaat was unhappy with the verdict, and called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for today, protesting “the government's conspiracy to kill Motiur Rahman Nizami through false cases against him”.
The war crimes convict, who is now in a condemned cell at Kashimpur Jail-2 in Gazipur, was yet to be informed about the SC verdict, Prasanta Kumar Banik, senior superintendent of the prison, told The Daily Star.
Jail sources, however, said Nizami learnt about the verdict through the radio.
The process of executing Nizami would start after the release of full text of the SC verdict, said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam.
"The process will be halted if he files a review petition with the apex court. But he must do it within 15 days from the date of the verdict's release," he told The Daily Star.
Upon disposal of the review petition, steps will be taken in line with the apex court's decision, he said.
Usually, a review petition is entertained in case of serious factual mistakes in the verdict or wrongful application of the law.
Earlier, talking to reporters at his office, Mahbubey expressed satisfaction at the verdict, and said it reflected the nation's expectations.
“He [Nizami] was responsible for mass killings and instigating atrocities during the 1971 war,” said the attorney general.
In his reaction to the SC verdict, Nizami's principal counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain said, “As a lawyer, I have to accept the judgment delivered by the judges.”
He said if his client asks them to file a petition seeking review of the judgment, they will certainly oblige.
"It cannot be said right now whether he [Nizami] will file a review petition... it entirely depends on my client," added the lawyer.
Nizami, who was also sentenced to death by a Chittagong court in the 10-truck arms haul case, was arrested in June 2010 in a case for hurting religious sentiment. He was shown arrested in a war crimes case in August that year.
In the five previous verdicts in war crimes cases, the SC handed down death penalty to Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, upheld death sentences of Jamaat leaders Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Mojaheed, and BNP leader Salauddin, and commuted capital punishment of Jamaat Nayeb-e-Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee to imprisonment till death.
Kamaruzzaman was executed on April 11 last year, Mojaheed and Salauddin on November 22 last year and Quader Mollah on December 12, 2013.
Appeals of nine war criminals are now pending with the apex court.
Nizami was president of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha from 1966 to September 1971. He was also ex-officio chief of Al-Badr that was formed with Chhatra Sangha men.
Throughout the war, he visited different areas of the country and gave provocative speeches at rallies organised by Jamaat, Chhatra Sangha, Al-Badr and Razakars.
He also wrote columns in newspapers. One of those, headlined “Badr Dibas [day]: Pakistan and Al-Badr”, was published in daily Sangram on November 14, 1971.
In the write-up, he not only justified the formation of Al-Badr Bahini, but also asked its members to take oath to exterminate the so-called betrayers [pro-liberation Bangalees] of Pakistan and co-operate with the Pakistan army to achieve the goal.
"This single piece of document is enough to hold that accused Motiur Rahman Nizami was not only a High Command of Al-Badr Bahini, he was also a mastermind for forming the said Bahini in 1971, during the Liberation War and he had complicity with the Al-Badr Bahini even after September 1971," observed the ICT-1 in its verdict.