The Supreme Court yesterday set March 8 for delivering verdict on the appeal filed by war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali challenging his conviction.
Earlier in the day, the apex court set March 2 for announcing the verdict. After a while, the SC deferred the date saying the chief justice would remain busy that day for another programme outside Dhaka.
The five-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha set the date after concluding hearing arguments from the relevant counsels on appeal of the convicted war criminal.
The other members of the bench are Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Mohammad Bazlur Rahman.
After the apex court had fixed the date, both the state and the defence counsels expressed the hope that the judgement would come in their favour.
The SC has so far disposed of six appeals in connection with war crimes cases.
On the seventh and last day of the hearing, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam prayed to the court to uphold the International Crimes Tribunal-2 verdict that sentenced Mir Quasem Ali to death for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.
He said the charges brought against Quasem Ali for his involvement in the killing of freedom fighters Jasim, Tuntu Sen and Ranjit Das and dumping their bodies into the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong were proved beyond reasonable doubt. The ICT-2 had legally and rightly convicted and sentenced him to death, he added.
Placing a document, Mahbubey Alam told the apex court that Mir Quasem Ali had spent $25 million for foreign lobbyists to foil his trial.
The court asked the attorney general why Quasem was not sued under the money laundering prevention law.
The top state law officer said he would take the issue to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
At one stage of the hearing, the apex court said the prosecutors and the investigators placed several documents before the court in connection with other war crimes cases but not much in the case against Mir Quasem.
Time has come to bring the prosecutors and the investigators in the same dock, Chief Justice SK Sinha observed.
Khandker Mahbub Hossain, principal counsel for Quasem Ali, has meanwhile urged the SC to free his client from all charges he was found guilty of by the tribunal. He argued that the prosecution has failed to produce any direct evidence before the court about the charges.
He said Mir Quasem was not involved in any offences mentioned in the charges, as he was not in Chittagong where the offences took place in November 1971.
The war crimes case was filed against the Jamaat leader only to harass and malign him, although no single case was filed against him in the previous 40 years, he claimed.
Khandker Mahbub said the ICT-2 has sentenced Mir Quasem to death on the basis of hearsay statements of the prosecution witnesses, although relevant eyewitnesses of the incidents were available.
The eyewitnesses were not brought to the tribunal and their statements were not recorded and examined, he alleged, adding that one of the victims Jasim's brother Dr Rajib, who is a university professor, was not brought to the tribunal and his statement was not recorded.
The defence counsel said there is no question of killing Tuntu Sen, as the investigation officer has examined him during investigation. He also argued that there is no relevant document about the killing of Ranjit.
According to the prosecution, Mir Quasem was the president of Chittagong town unit Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, until November 6, 1971. He was then made the general secretary of the East Pakistan Chhatra Sangha.
He went into hiding after the Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators surrendered on December 16, 1971.
But years later, he re-emerged and subsequently assumed the role of the chief financier of Jamaat-e-Islami.
He had been leading a free life until his arrest on June 17, 2012 at the office of the daily Naya Diganta, a concern of Diganta Media Corporation, of which he was the chairman.
The ICT-2 on November 2, 2014 sentenced Quasem to death after finding him guilty on 10 charges for abducting, confining and torturing people during the War.
He was also sentenced to death for the murders of young freedom fighter Jasim, Ranjit Das and Tuntu Sen at Dalim Hotel, an Al-Badr camp in Chittagong.
The tribunal also jailed him for 20 years for the abduction, confinement and torture of Lutfar Rahman Faruk and Seraj and for another 10 years for abduction, confinement and torture of Nasiruddin Chowdhury.
He also got seven-year jail for six other charges. The charges are abduction, confinement and torture of Jahangir Alam Chowdhury; abduction, confinement and torture of Saifuddin Khan; abduction, confinement and torture of Harunur Rashid Khan; abduction, confinement and torture of Sanaulla Chowdhury, Habibur Rahman and Elias; abduction, confinement and torture to Sayed Md Jamaluddin and six others; and abduction, confinement and torture of Zakaria, Salahuddin alias Chuttu Miah, Iskandar Alam Chowdhury, Nazim Uddin and many others.
Around four weeks after the tribunal made the verdict, the convict challenged it with the SC.