Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami and its Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah have been indicted separately for crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War. The two international crimes tribunals that had been formed to deal with such crimes framed 16 specific charges against Nizami and six against Mollah yesterday. Trial against Nizami will start at Tribunal-1 on July 1 while trial against Mollah will begin at tribunal-2 on June 20. Both Jamaat leaders, however, pleaded not guilty. If the charges against them are proved, the duo could face death sentence, the maximum punishment for such crimes.
Nizami Faces 16 charges
Julfikar Ali Manik and Rizanuzzaman Laskar
Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami has been charged for involvement in murders and torture of unarmed people during the Liberation War in 1971, along with hatching conspiracy, planning, incitement and complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity during the war.
After framing 16 charges against Nizami, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 set July 1 for beginning his trial with the opening statement from the prosecution.
The charges are based on 16 separate incidents of crimes against humanity, in which at least 601 unarmed people were killed and 31 women raped during the War.
The 69-year-old Jamaat leader was the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), student wing of Jamaat in 1971.
Members of the ICS were used to form the AL Badr -- an auxiliary force formed to collaborate with the Pakistani military that committed genocide and mass killing during the nine-month-long war.
Nizami headed the infamous Al Badr force and also campaigned across the country in an attempt to foil the birth of Bangladesh.
As a superior leader of the organisation and the force, which collaborated with the Pakistani occupation force, Nizami has also been charged for failing to prevent his subordinates from committing international crimes.
The most notable of the sixteen charges brought against Nizami is his role in eliminating the best brains of the nation through planned killing of intellectuals and professionals prior to Bangladesh's victory on December 16, 1971.
"Towards the period when international crimes were being committed in Bangladesh, you [Nizami] were president of ICS and head of the infamous Al Badr, an auxiliary force that committed said crimes all over Bangladesh," said the International Crimes Tribunal-1 reading out the charges against Nizami.
However, sensing defeat, the Pakistani occupation and auxiliary forces, especially Al Badr formed with the members of ICS, carried out "selective elimination of respected professionals and intellectuals" in the country to give a "mortal blow" to free and of independent Bangladesh, the tribunal added.
The victims' houses were burnt; they were drugged out, often blindfolded, tortured, murdered, and their bodies were dumped in mass graves and other places, it added.
"Such attacks had largely spread out on around December 14, 1971, hours before victory of Bangladesh against Pakistani occupation and auxiliary forces," said the tribunal.
"These were orchestrated and silently executed plans to eliminate a group of individuals, who were all members of a national ethnic and racial group," it added.
"Through your [Nizami's] above acts and commissions, you have committed the crime of genocide as intended to eliminate the above victims [intellectuals and professionals] and others in whole and in part as members of a national ethnic and racial group as crime of genocide."
Tribunal-1 Chairman Justice Md Nizamul Huq yesterday read out the charges with an introduction to the formation of the tribunal, a brief history of the Liberation War, a profile of Nizami and submissions of the prosecution and the defence along with the court's views on the case.
Justice Md Anwarul Haque and AKM Zaheer Ahmed are the other members of the three-member tribunal.
According to the charges, Nizami had conspired with the Pakistani occupation forces, planned and incited crimes, and was complicit in murders, rapes, looting, destruction of property and was responsible for commissioning of international crimes in 1971.
"We are of the opinion that there are sufficient grounds to presume that the accused Motiur Rahman Nizami had committed offences under section 3(2), 4(1) and 4(2) of the International Crimes Tribunal Act, as such we find that there is a prima facie case against the accused," said Justice Huq.
Nizami had assisted Ghulam Azam, who is facing similar charges at the tribunal, in forming different auxiliary forces including Shanti [peace] Committee, Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams, said Justice Huq.
Two weeks ago when the Tribunal-1 framed charges against Ghulam Azam, it said he played a key role in forming these auxiliary forces. These forces helped the Pakistani forces commit atrocities across the country.
Three million people were killed and over two lakh women were raped during the nine-month-long war.
Nizami committed the alleged crimes by delivering speeches on different occasions in and outside of Dhaka during the War and issuing directives to his subordinates, among other means.
"The tribunal also found that the trial can be held [against Nizami] for offences committed in 1971 under this [International Crimes Tribunal] act of 1973."
Nizami sat still in the dock as the tribunal chairman read out the charges. He was wearing a Jinnah cap [a dark brown cap named after Pakistani leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah] and cardigan over white punjabi and white pyjamas.
He was produced before the tribunal at 10:30am. He first took a seat in the dock at the back of the courtroom. Before starting the proceedings of framing charges, the tribunal asked Nizami to sit in the dock near the judges' bench.
Other charges brought against Nizami include his involvement in the killing of 450 civilians in Bausgari village in Pabna on May 14, 1971, where Pakistani army gathered the victims in front of a large ditch and shot them to death.
Some 30 to 40 women were also raped in the incident. Many of the rape victims were forced to leave the country, and as such effectively deported to India.
Nizami in a speech on May 10, 1971 told the villagers that Pakistani army will arrive there to "secure peace" in the area.
According to the charges, Nizami accompanied by another ICS leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed (now secretary general of Jamaat and a detained war crimes accused), visited the army camp at the old MP hostel in Dhaka.
"You [Nizami] verbally abused detained Jalal, Bodi, Rumi, Jewel and Azad. You told the Pakistani captain to kill all of them before the president declared general amnesty," said the tribunal.
"Excepting one, all of them were killed following your [Nizami's] suggestion."
Other charges against him include his involvement in the torture and murder of Kasimuddin and two others in Pabna town on June 4, 1971; in the killing of 21 unarmed civilians in Ishwardi's Arpara and Bhuter Bari villages on April 14, 1971, and another 52 people in Pabna's Dulaura village on November 11, 1971; and his frequent visits in Mohammadpur's Physical Training Institute, which was used as a detention camp and torture centre.
After the charges were read out, the tribunal chairman asked Nizami whether he pleaded guilty or not.
At this stage, Nizami stood up in the dock and asked for the tribunal's permission say something. He then went on to deliver an around 15-minute speech.
Nizami pleaded not guilty saying: "I want to say clearly that during the Liberation War of 1971 I was not involved in anything other than politics."
If convicted, he could get the death penalty. The International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973 only allows a convict to appeal to the Appellate Division against his conviction and sentence.
The tribunal took the charges into cognisance on January 9 this year. Nizami was one among the first four who were shown arrested in the war crimes charges in 2010.
After the proceedings, Abdur Razzaq, chief counsel for the Jamaat leaders, told the media the prosecution had placed 15 charges against Nizami, but the tribunal framed 16 charges, which was "not correct".
He said the tribunal has legal right to add the additional charge, but they are unhappy as they did not get an opportunity to argue against the additional charge.
Razzaq added they would file a petition seeking review of the indictment order.
Mollah Faces 6 charges
Tuhin Shubhna Adhikary
A war crimes tribunal yesterday framed six charges against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah for involvement in murders and mass killings during the Liberation War in 1971.
According to the charges, Mollah “actively participated” in the killing of at least 381 unarmed people in Dhaka's Mirpur and Keraniganj areas in six different incidents. He also aided the Pakistan army to kill and rape civilians.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2, led by Chairman ATM Fazle Kabir, drew up the indictment.
Yesterday's was the first charge framing by the Tribunal-2 against any war crimes suspect since its formation on March 22.
The tribunal fixed June 20 for hearing of the opening statement from the prosecution and examination of prosecution witness. It also directed the defence counsels to submit the list of their witnesses and other documents by the day.
“The proceedings shall continue on every working day until further order,” the court said.
The tribunal charged Quader Mollah, considering his role during the war as a leader of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha, a significant member of auxiliary force Al Badr or a member of a group of individuals.
Mollah, the then president of Dhaka University Shahidullah Hall unit Chhatra Sangha, organised the formation of Al-Badar with the members of the student body in 1971, the court said.
Yesterday, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir started his one-hour long order with a brief introduction. Later, he said about formation of the tribunal, historical context of independence, brief profile of the accused, procedural history, submission of prosecution and defence side, discussion and decision and the charges.
Quader Mollah, now assistant secretary general of Jamaat, was born in Amirabad village under Sadarpur of Faridpur in 1948. He was arrested on charges of killing 345 people during the war on July 13, 2010. Later, he was shown arrested in a case for crimes against humanity committed in 1971.
The prosecution on December 18 last year submitted formal charges against him before Tribunal-1, which took the charges into cognisance on December 28.
On April 16, the case was transferred to Tribunal-2, where both the prosecution and the defence placed their submission on May 2, 8, 9, 14 and 16.
The tribunal on May 16 fixed yesterday for passing the indictment order.
On Quader Mollah's instruction, one of his aides named Akhter killed Pallab, a student of Bangla College and an organiser of the Liberation War, on April 5, 1971.
Pallab was buried by the side of Kalapani Jheel along with several other bodies.
A group of anti-liberation people forcibly brought Pallab to Quader Mollah at Mirpur-12. From there, on the Jamaat leader's order, they dragged the youth to Shah Ali Majar at Mirpur-1, said the charge.
Pallab was then taken to an Eidgah at Mirpur-12, where he was shot to death.
On March 27, 1971, Quader Mollah and his aides murdered pro-liberation poet Meherun Nesa, her mother and two brothers at their house at Mirpur-6.
Quader Mollah accompanied by other members of Al Badr, Razakar and non-Bangalees detained one Khandakar Abu Taleb from Mirpur-10 bus stand on March 29, 1971, and tied him up with a rope. He was brought to the Mirpur Jallad Khana Pump House and killed.
On November 25, 1971, Quader Mollah along with his 60/70 accomplices went to the village of Khanbari and Ghotan Char, now Shaheed Nagar of Keraniganj, and caught two unarmed freedom fighters from the house of Mozaffar Ahmed Khan.
Freedom fighters Osman Gani and Golam Mostafa were brutally murdered by charging bayonet in broad daylight.
A systematic attack and indiscriminate shooting by Quader Mollah and his gang killed hundreds of unarmed people of the two villages that day. Among them, 24 persons were named in the charge.
On the early morning of April 24, members of Pakistan occupation forces and around 50 non-Bangalees led by Quader Mollah raided Alubdi village of Mirpur and suddenly launched attack on unarmed villagers, killing 344 people. Of the victims, names of 24 people were mentioned in the charge.
In the evening of March 26 1971, under the leadership of Quader Mollah, some Biharis and Pakistani soldiers killed one Hazrat Ali and five members of his family at city's Mirpur.
Entering Hazrat's house at Mirpur-12 that day, accomplices of Quader Mollah shot dead Hazrat and killed the latter's wife Amina and daughters Khadija and Tahmina.
They killed his two-year-old son Babu by dashing the baby against the ground and when his 11-year-old daughter came out from hiding, 12 army personnel raped and killed her. His first daughter Momena, however, escaped.
The tribunal also said the allegations indicate that the accused facilitated, actively participated in and substantially contributed to the last five murders.
Before the charge framing, the tribunal rejected a petition seeking discharge of the accused.
As the reading out of the charges ended, the tribunal chairman asked the accused, “Do you plead guilty or not?”
“I am totally innocent. I was not in Dhaka during the Liberation War. All charges are fabricated,” replied Quader Mollah.
The Jamaat leader said he left Dhaka on March 12 or 13 in 1971 and had come to Dhaka once in July for some 15 days to take part in examination.
After the proceeding, Abdur Razzaq, chief of defence counsels, told reporters that they would file a petition for review of the indictment order.
The yesterday expressed deep dissatisfaction, as no prosecutor was present at the courtroom as the proceeding started at 10:30am.
Prosecution AKM Saiful Islam arrived at 10:40am while Mohammad Ali, the engage prosecutor of Quader Mollah's case came at the court at 10:43am.
“Mr Mohammad Ali! Why are you 10-minute late? Is it the norms?” asked Judge M Shahinur Islam, one of the members of the tribunal.
When Mohammad Ali stood to say something, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said, “We express our deep dissatisfaction. None of you was present at the courtroom [when the proceeding started]. Is it the conduct of prosecution?”
When Mohammad Ali said, “Sorry”, Shahinur Islam said, “Sorry is not enough always. If you cannot handle, just quit.”
Earlier on the day, the tribunal granted two prosecution's petitions seeking permission to allow six additional witnesses in the case but rejected another prosecution's petition to make some charge in the formal charge.
Justice Obaidul Hassan, one of the tribunal members, passed the order on the petitions.