Death to SQ Chy
In the first-ever war crimes verdict against any BNP leader, a special tribunal yesterday sentenced Salauddin Quader Chowdhury to death for committing crimes against humanity and genocide during the country's Liberation War in 1971.
The BNP lawmaker was found guilty on nine of the 23 charges brought against him.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 awarded him death penalty on four charges -- his involvement in two acts of genocide, the killing of Nutan Chandra Singha, and Awami League leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son in Raozan of Chittagong.
Salauddin, 64, was also sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment each on three charges and five years' each on two charges.
Pronouncing the verdict in the presence of Salauddin and his family members in a packed courtroom, ICT-1 Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said, “We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment as provided under law for committing such gravest crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind.”
The tribunal, however, acquitted Salauddin on 14 other charges as the prosecution failed to prove his complicity in the crimes. The prosecution could not even produce any witness to establish six of the charges against him.
Salauddin is the only sitting member of parliament to have been convicted of war crimes and condemned to hang. Of the seven war crimes convicts including Salauddin, five are from Jamaat-e-Islami and one is a former Jamaat man.
The tribunal said the prosecution has successfully proved that the accused, in collaboration with the Pakistan army and Razakars, actively participated in the horrendous atrocities committed on unarmed civilians with the intent to destroy the Hindu community.
“Thereby, he committed offences of genocide and crimes against humanity,” said the three-member tribunal led by Justice Kabir.
Tribunal members Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque read out parts of the summary of the 172-page verdict amid tight security on and around the court premises.
The judgment said the accused, aided by the Pakistani army, committed genocide by his active participation in different places of Chittagong. He sought to wipe out the Hindus by launching large-scale systematic attacks and killed unarmed civilians, unleashing a reign of terror in the locality.
“As a result, millions of people were compelled to leave the country and took refuge in India during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh,” it added.
The tribunal found Salauddin's conduct “disrespectful to the court”, and said, “His art of deliberation, actions and conduct as shown in the courtroom were not in conformity with rightness, decency and convention of good behaviour.”
Wearing a white punjabi and pyjamas, Salauddin, who enjoyed the status of a minister during the previous BNP-led government's tenure, looked nonchalant in the courtroom.
He jibed, and even mocked, and chuckled at times, as the judges delivered the verdict.
Salauddin was later taken to Kashimpur Jail-1 and kept in a condemn cell of the prison, a jail official told The Daily Star last night.
People across the country have expressed satisfaction over the verdict, while Salauddin's family and defence lawyers said they would challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.
According to the law, a war crimes convict can file appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of pronouncement of the verdict.
The convict's lawyer Fakhrul Islam alleged that the verdict “was dictated by the law ministry”, saying it was available on the internet before the tribunal sat yesterday.
DEATH ON FOUR CHARGES
Nutan's killing: Salauddin had led the Pakistani Army to Kundeshwari Oushadhalay at Gohira and raided the house of its owner Nutan Chandra Singha between 9:30am and 10:00am on April 13, 1971.
Nutan, who was performing rites in a prayer room, was dragged out of it by Salauddin and his followers.
Salauddin told the Pakistani army that his father instructed him to kill Nutan, and then the army personnel fired at Nutan, who fell on the ground, according to the charge.
While Nutan was groaning with pain, Salauddin shot him to confirm his death, and then left the place with the Pakistani army.
The tribunal said oral and documentary evidence have proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Salauddin with the help of Pakistani army killed Nutan Chandra in a planned way.
Genocide in Sultanpur: Salauddin and his accomplices along with the Pakistani army attacked members of the Hindu community at Bonik Para of Sultanpur village in Raozan around 1:00pm on April 13, 1971, according to the fifth charge against the BNP leader.
Salauddin, his father and their accomplices, along with the Pakistani army, opened fire on Hindu people, and killed Nepal Chandra Dhar, Monindra Lal Dhar, Upendro Lal Dhar and Onil Barun Dhar.
“After assessing the evidence on record, we are inclined to hold that the prosecution has been able to prove this charge 5 beyond reasonable doubt that the accused with intent to destroy in whole or in part the members of Hindu community actively participated in the killing of unarmed civilians of village Sultanpur,” said the judgment.
Genocide at Unosattur Para: Salauddin along with his accomplices and the Pakistani army attacked the Hindu-inhabited Unosattur Para around 4:00pm on April 13, 1971, according to the sixth charge.
They brought the Hindu people near the pond behind Khitish Mohajan's house, and then sprayed the unarmed people with bullets in Salauddin's presence, leaving about 70 people dead.
The court said considering both oral and documentary evidence, it was proved that the accused and his accomplices attacked the Hindus at Unosattur Para and killed 60 to 70 unarmed Hindu people there.
Killing of Mozaffar and his son: On Salauddin's instructions, the Pakistan army took Chittagong Awami League's founder Sheikh Mozaffar Ahmed and his son Sheikh Alamgir to a nearby camp around 11:00am on April 17, 1971.
When Mozaffar's relatives approached Salauddin's father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury to have them released, Fazlul told them that Salauddin was dealing with the matter.
They contacted Fazlul several times but all to no avail. “The said victims did not return as they were subsequently killed,” said the court.
The evidence proved that the accused had direct complicity in abduction and murder of the duo, it added.
CONVICTION ON FIVE OTHER CHARGES
The three charges that got Salauddin 20 years' imprisonment each are acts of genocide at Madhya Gohira Hindu Para, and acts of genocide, persecution and deportation at Jagotmallo Para, and the killing of Satish Chandra Palit in Raozan.
He was given five years' imprisonment each on two other charges.
Salauddin was found guilty of abducting, confining and torturing Saleh Uddin (who later became vice-chancellor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology), and Nizamuddin Ahmed (who later became a journalist) at his father's Goods Hill Torture Centre in Chittagong in 1971.
The tribunal acquitted Salauddin on eight charges that include genocide, race killing, murder, abduction, torture, deportation, confinement, looting, and acts of arson at different places in Chittagong.
The prosecution failed to produce witnesses to prove six other charges that include abduction, torture, confinement, murder and race killing in Chittagong.