The International Crimes Tribunal-2 concluded the hearing of closing arguments in the case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali yesterday and kept the case waiting for verdict delivery.
Wrapping up the closing arguments, the prosecution sought capital punishment for Quasem while the defence sought the 61-year-old accused's acquittal on all charges.
The Tribunal-2, led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam, had taken 25 days to deliver the verdict in the case against Abul Kalam Azad after closing arguments had ended. It took highest 41 days to deliver the verdict in the case against Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.
If convicted, Quasem, who is considered as one of the top financiers of Jamaat, may face the death penalty.
Quasem, the alleged chief of Chittagong Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of Pakistani army, faces 14 charges, including murders, committed in the port city between November and December 16, 1971.
According to the prosecution, Quasem, president of Jamaat's then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha's Chittagong city unit, colluded with the Pakistani army, Jamaat, and other anti-liberation forces and formed Al-Badr force there in 1971.
As the Al-Badr commander, Quasem had led the setting up of several Al-Badr camps in Chittagong for torturing and killing pro-liberation people, the prosecution said.
Quasem also had links with the Pakistan army and had direct involvement in crimes like abductions, torture, and murder in 1971, the prosecution claimed.
They produced 24 witnesses, mostly victims, and documents to prove the charges. They, however, could not produce any witness in support of two charges.
Quasem's defence said their client was indeed involved in Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971 but he had nothing to do with Al-Badr or any torture camp.
They claimed that Quasem was not in Chittagong during November and December 16, 1971, and that he had been in Dhaka after becoming the general secretary of Islami Chhatra Sangha of East Pakistan on November 6.
“So, no question arises about his [Quasem's] involvement in the said crimes,” they claimed.
The defence produced three defence witnesses including one of Quasem's sisters and some documents in support of their claims.
Quasem's lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Al Amin, wrapping up his brief legal arguments yesterday, said the prosecution “miserably failed to prove the charges and we are humbly praying for his [Quasem's] acquittal.”
Responding to the defence arguments, Prosecutor Tureen Afroz said the prosecution witnesses have narrated the brutal torture they or their relatives endured in the Al-Badr torture centres “controlled” by Quasem.
“We want capital punishment,” she said.
Quasem was in the dock yesterday.
Tribubal-1 and Tribunal-2 have so far delivered judgments in nine war crimes cases.
The Tribunal-1 is expected to deliver the verdict in the case against Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and Faridpur BNP leader Zahid Hossain Khokon, as the proceedings of these cases have already been completed.
Quasem, son of Mir Tayeb Ali and Rabeya Begum, was born in Munsidangi Sutalori of Manikganj on December 31, 1952. He got involved in Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1967 when he studied in Chittagong Collegiate School.
Later, he became president of Chhatra Sangha of Chittagong College and Chittagong town units and on November 6, 1971, he became the general secretary of East Pakistani Islami Chhatra Sangha, according to prosecution documents.
He became the first president of Islami Chhatra Shibir, formerly Islami Chhatra Sangha, in 1977 and joined Jamaat as an activist in 1980. He is now 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 Keari Ltd, a real estate and tourism company, chairman and director of the Diganta Media Corporation Ltd, which owns Bangla daily Naya Diganta and now off-the-air Diganta TV.
He is the director (marketing) of Ibn Sina Pharmaceutical Industries, chairman of Agro Industrial Trust, member secretary of Fouad Al-Khateeb Charity Foundation, chairman of Association of Multipurpose Welfare Agencies of Bangladesh, an association of Bangladeshi NGOs, the petition said.
He also holds management positions in many other organisations including Industrialists and Businessmen Welfare Foundation, Allama Iqbal Sangsad, Islamic University of Chittagong, Darul Ihsan University, Centre for Strategy and Peace Studies, the petition mentioned.
He was the member secretary of Islami Bank Foundation, a sister concern of Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd.
Tajul Islam, a senior member of Quasem's defence team, told The Daily Star yesterday, “As far as I know, he [Quasem] still holds the posts, which was mentioned in the petition.”
The investigation agency, designated to investigate war crimes, began its probe into the alleged war crimes of Quasem on July 26, 2010, and submitted its report to the prosecution on May 6, 2013.
Quasem was arrested on June 17, 2012, after Tribunal-1 issued an arrest warrant for him. Tribunal-1 on May 26 took the charges pressed by prosecution into cognisance.
Tribunal-1 indicted Quasem on the 14 charges on September 5, 2013 but on September 30, the case was transferred to Tribunal-2.
Two of the charges Quasem is facing were related to his alleged involvement in the killing of three named and several unnamed people in Chittagong while the rest were based on his alleged involvement in abduction, confinement and torture of at least 27 people.
According to the charges, Al-Badr men, on several occasions accompanied by the Pakistani army, abducted the victims from places in Chittagong, kept them confined to Al-Badr torture camps, tortured them and killed many of the abductees before dumping their bodies in the Karnaphuli river.
Mir Quasem Ali abetted and facilitated the commissioning of crimes either by participating or leading or instancing or making plans or instigating the Al-Badr men between November and December 16, the charges said.