A court yesterday sentenced Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed to death for his role in crimes against humanity, including the mass extermination of intellectuals towards the end of the Liberation War in 1971.
International Crimes Tribunal-2 found the 65-year-old Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general guilty of murders, persecutions and detentions of unarmed people.
Mojaheed had led a “death squad”, named Al-Badr, that worked as an auxiliary force for the Pakistani army.
In a verdict that sheds light on the nation's struggle for freedom from Pakistan, three judges of the tribunal said Mojaheed held superior responsibility in abetting, planning and facilitating the mass killings of the “best sons and daughters of the soil”.
The former minister was guilty in five of the seven charges piled against him. He was sentenced to death in three of them, imprisoned for life in one and sentenced to five years in prison in another.
The large-scale killing of intellectuals and professionals in 1971 “terribly shocks the conscience of humankind and the Bangalee nation," the judges said. “Intent to kill the listed intelligentsia was to cripple the Bangalee nation.”
In 1971, Mojaheed was a top leader of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Chhatra Sangha turned into Al-Badr, an armed outfit, according to the international crimes tribunal.
Mojaheed, who was made a technocrat minister during the BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government's rule in 2001-2006, came under huge criticism for his audacious comment in 2007 that there were no war criminals in the country.
In white punjabi, white pajamas, and light brown shoes, Mojaheed sat through the 100 minutes the tribunal took to read out the summary of the 209-page judgment yesterday.
The judges began reading out the three-part 37-page summary at 11.05am in an overcrowded courtroom.
Just after the pronouncement of the verdict, Mojaheed shouted from the dock: "It is a hundred percent injustice. Forging an Islamic movement was my offence."
The prosecution and justice seekers hailed the verdict while the unhappy defence said it would file an appeal against the verdict with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
"Letters of law cannot remain nonresponsive to the relatives of hundreds of martyr victims and the nation too who have been carrying colossal and unspeakable trauma,” the judges said.
He was sentenced to death for abducting and killing eminent journalist Serajuddin Hossain. The judges merged this offence with the charge of killing intellectuals and professionals, which Mojaheed was also guilty of, and sentenced him to death.
Mojaheed was also given the death penalty for his involvement in the killing of Hindus in Bakchar village in Faridpur.
He was given life term for the killing of several freedom fighters, including Rumi (son of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam) and Altaf Mahmud, who had composed the song “Amar bhaiy-er rokte rangano Ekushey February”.
Mojaheed is convicted and condemned to a “single sentence of death” for the three charges and “he be hanged by the neck till he is dead", the tribunal said in the verdict.
It said his sentences of imprisonment would naturally get merged into the sentence of death.
Tribunal-2 Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan and members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and judge Md Shahinur Islam, unanimously agreed that Mojaheed had superior position in the Chhatra Sangha as well as in Al-Badr.
"We are convinced from the evidence, oral, documentary and circumstantial, led by the prosecution and the sourced documents that the accused [Mojaheed], at the relevant time had acted as an atrocious and potential leader of Al-Badar [Al-Badr] to the actual accomplishment of the crimes charged," Justice Hassan read from the concluding part of the judgment.
Mojaheed's access to the army camps is a fair indication of his active and culpable affiliation even with the Pakistan occupation army, he said in the judgment.
"It also stands proved that the accused, by his acts and conduct, also incurs superior responsibility … for the crimes described in charge-1 and -6 (killing of journalist Sirajuddin and intellectual killings)," read the verdict.
After the verdict delivery, Mojaheed was taken back to Dhaka Central Jail and placed on death row in inmate uniform, Inspector General (prison) Brig Gen (retd) Ashraful Islam Khan told The Daily Star.
DEATH IN THREE CHARGES
Eminent journalist Serajuddin Hossain became the target of the Jamaat and Al-Badr for his write-ups on the sufferings inflicted on unarmed civilians through the atrocities carried out by the collaborators of the Pakistani army.
On the night of December 10, 1971, seven to eight youths, wearing ski masks and armed with rifles, abducted Serajuddin at his house in the capital's Chamelibagh.
The judges said it was quite evident that Al-Badr men had abducted Serajuddin. Being a leader of Al-Badr, Mojaheed, instead of preventing the crime, approved, endorsed, encouraged and provided moral support for the abduction of Serajuddin Hossain, who was later killed.
The charge concerning killings of intellectuals says during the Liberation War, the Pakistan army set up a camp at Mohammadpur Physical Training Institute, Dhaka, and members of the Razakar and Al-Badr forces used to receive their training there.
It was also known as a "torture camp". Mojaheed used to visit the camp regularly with his Al-Badr co-leaders and with intent to annihilate the Bangalee population, and to design, plan and conspire with senior army officers of the camp.
It says following such conspiracy and planning, killings of intellectuals and professionals were carried out from December 10, 1971.
The judges in the verdict said Mojaheed was found to be “part of designing the plan and activities involving the commission of the mass killing of intellectuals”.
Mojaheed, who was in a “superior position of ICS [Chhatra Sangha], which transformed into Al-Badar, was aware of the consequences of his act and conduct that substantially encouraged, endorsed, approved, provided moral support to the Al-Badar men in committing the intellectuals' killing”, the judges said.
It said Mojaheed's acts, conduct, inflammatory and provocative speeches had substantial impact on the Al-Badr force in its carrying out of activities and operations between December 10 and 16, 1971.
Another charge, in which Mojaheed has been awarded death, says Mojaheed accompanied by his accomplices attacked the Hindu community of Bakchar village in Faridpur and tied up at least nine people on May 13, 1971.
Following his instructions, his accomplices killed all the civilians apprehended, raped a woman, and looted and burnt down the house of one Anil Saha.
He participated and substantially facilitated the commission of the crimes, the judges said.
On August 30, 1971, Mojaheed, accompanied by war crimes accused and now Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, went to the army camp at the old MP Hostel in Nakhalpara, Dhaka. He scolded Altaf Mahmud, and freedom fighters Jahir Uddin Jalal, Badi, Rumi, Jewel and Azad, who were detained there, read one of the charges.
Mojaheed had then told one army captain that before the proclamation of clemency by the president, the detainees would have to be killed. Mojaheed and his accomplices then killed the detainees after inflicting inhuman torture on them.
Nizami too is facing a war crimes charge in connection with the killing of the freedom fighters.
Regarding the charge, the verdict said Mojaheed's advice to liquidate them was “concerned with the commission” of the killing. “He is held to have participated in the actual commission of the offence of the killing of numerous unarmed civilians, most of whom were valiant and brave guerrilla fighters.”
FIVE YEARS IMPRISONMENT
In the first week of June, 1971, Razakars apprehended Ranjit Nath in Faridpur and brought him before Pakistani army Major Akram at Faridpur Old Circuit House, where Mojaheed was present, read one of the charges.
Getting a signal from Mojaheed, after his talk with the major, some Razakars and non-Bangalees took Ranjit to the house of Abdur Rashid. Ranjit was confined to the house and tortured. He, however, managed to escape later.
Referring to Ranjit's testimony, the judgment said the very utterance “Isko Hatao” [take him away] by accused Mojaheed at the army camp was not an “innocent utterance” but rather was issuing an “order” or “instruction”.
“If the utterance was really an innocent one, the victim would have been released at once from the camp. But Mujaheed's [Mojaheed's] cohorts on getting the signal brought the victim out of the camp, inflicted torture and kept him confined,” the judges said.
ACQUITTED IN TWO CHARGES
Of the two charges the prosecution had failed to prove, one claimed that Mojaheed, accompanied by eight to ten non-Bangalees and Pakistani army men, attacked the Hindu-dominated Baidyadangi, Majhidangi and Baladangi villages in mid-May 1971.
Around 60 Hindus were killed and their houses were burnt down.
The court yesterday said it had been proved that a mass killing had taken place but the prosecution failed to prove that Mojaheed accompanied the attackers.
The other charge claimed that on July 26, 1971, Razakars abducted Abu Yusuf from Alfadanga in Faridpur and brought him to the army camp at Faridpur stadium.
The same day, Mojaheed went to the camp and said something to a Pakistani army major, which caused Yusuf to be tortured severely, the charge added.
The court yesterday said the prosecution had failed to prove this charge as well.