HANG Mueen, Ashraf
Humankind has suffered extensive atrocities through ages. But the targeted killing of a group belonging to the intellectual community, known as the nation's conscience, in Bangladesh's Liberation War is an act of extermination unheard of.
"Only and only the capital punishment can reinforce the expectations of the nation and the relatives of the murdered intellectuals who sustained untold sufferings and trauma for the systematic and organised extermination of illustrious intellectuals,” observed a special war crimes tribunal.
The observations came yesterday, as the International Crimes Tribunal-2 handed down death penalty to Al-Badr leaders Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan for carrying out “unheard of extermination committed in execution of designed murderous scheme”.
The court found them guilty on all 11 charges relating to the killing of 18 intellectuals -- nine teachers of Dhaka University, six journalists and three doctors -- on the cusp of the country's independence in 1971.
The duo, both aged 65, were tried in absentia, as the tribunal's efforts to bring them back to face trial had failed. Mueen is now in the UK and Ashraf in the US.
Sensing defeat, the Pakistan army and the Jamaat-e-Islami designated the Al-Badr Bahini, the brainchild of Jamaat, to wipe out the brightest sons and daughters of the soil to paralyse the soon-to-be independent Bangladesh. Mueen played the role of the operation-in-charge while Ashraf the chief executor of the killing mission, said the court.
"We believe the nation still bleeds for the untold trauma it sustained for the extreme criminal activities carried out directing the illustrious intellectuals, the pride of the nation, by the organised murderous enterprise formed of infamous Al-Badr, the brainchild of JEI [Jamaat]," it continued.
"No punishment other than death will be equal to the horrendous crimes for which the accused persons have been found guilty and accountable, beyond reasonable doubt."
The three-member tribunal read out the summary of the 154-page verdict in a packed courtroom amid tight security.
The nation feels ashamed, as it couldn't bring the notorious perpetrators to book in the last four decades, said the tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan.
"The fierceness of the event of the intellectuals killing was extremely detrimental to basic humanness. It deserves to be evaluated as crimes of serious gravity intending to demean the human civilisation," said Justice Obaidul.
The other two judges -- Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam -- also read out parts of the verdict in the presence of the relatives of the martyred intellectuals.
It was crucial to deliver justice to the relatives of the brutally murdered intellectuals, considering the extreme gravity of the offences committed by Mueen and Ashraf, the then top leaders of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS).
The court described how the former ICS leaders had abducted and killed the 18 intellectuals between December 11 and 15 in 1971.
The martyred intellectuals are DU teachers Prof Mofazzal Haider Choudhury, Prof Munier Chowdhury, Prof Giasuddin Ahmed, Prof Serajul Haque Khan, Dr Abul Khayer, Dr Faizul Mohiuddin, Prof Rashidul Hasan, Prof Anwar Pasha, and Prof Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya, journalists Serajuddin Hossain, Syed Najmul Haque, ANM Golam Mostafa, Nizam Uddin Ahmed, Selina Pervin, Shahidullah Kaiser, and physicians Fazle Rabbee, Alim Chaudhury and Mohammad Martuza.
The intellectuals' lustrous nationalism and pro-liberation ideology made them the targets of the killing squad. But nothing could deter them from carrying out their duties, said the court.
They ignored imminent danger during the Liberation War and contributed by their righteous activities, it added.
They could have played a big part in building a new-born nation. But the killing of the intellectuals caused incalculable loss to the country, said the tribunal.
As the convicted persons are absconding, the sentence will be executed after their arrest or surrender to the tribunal, it said.
According to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, any war crimes convict can challenge the ICT verdict at the Supreme Court in 30 days from its pronouncement.
With the conviction of Mueen and Ashraf, 10 people have been sentenced so far for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in 1971.
This is the second war crimes case in which the accused were tried in absentia. In the first case, the tribunal awarded capital punishment to expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, who is on the run.
The tribunal was highly critical of the regimes of Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad. It said instead of punishing Mueen, both the military dictators allowed him to visit his village home in Feni under police protection.
"What a shame! This fact indubitably shakes and debases the nation. It increases the trauma sustained by the victims' family ...," it said.
The court criticised HM Ershad for making Maulana Mannan, an alleged organiser of the Al-Badr, a member of the cabinet. Mannan had a suspicious role in the abduction of Dr Alim Chaudhury.
Charge 1: On instructions of Mueen and Ashraf, some seven to eight armed Al-Badr men abducted and brought Serajuddin Hossain, the then executive editor of Ittefaq, to an unknown place by a minibus and killed him early hours of December 11, 1971.
Charge 2: A gang 8-10 armed Al-Badr men led by Mueen and Ashraf abducted Syed Nazmul Haque, chief reporter of PPI, at gunpoint from his Purana Paltan residence and killed him around the same time.
Charge 3: A group of five to six Al-Badr men on instructions of the duo abducted ANM Golam Mostafa, a journalist of daily Purbadesh, from his Gopibagh residence and killed him at an unknown location in the morning of December 11.
Charge 4: On instructions of the duo some armed Al-Badr men abducted Nizam Uddin Ahmed, the then general manager of PPI, from his Kalta Bazar residence and killed him at an unknown place around noon of December 12.
Their bodies were never found.
Charge 5: Al-Badr men led by Mueen and Ashraf abducted Selina Parveen, editor of weekly Shilalipi, from her New Circular Road at gunpoint on December 13. Later, her body was recovered from the mass grave at Rayerbazar.
Charge 6: Mueen and Ashraf led a gang of Al-Badr men to abduct Giasuddin Ahmed, Serajul Haque Khan, Abul Khayer, Faizul Mohiuddin, Rashidul Hasan, Anwar Pasha, Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya and Mohammad Martuza from their residences on the Dhaka University campus and killed them on December 14.
The bodies of Giasuddin, Martuza, Khayer, Rashidul, Anwar and Santosh were later found at Mirpur mass grave.
Charge 7: Armed Al-Badr men led by the duo abducted Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury from his brother's house at Shantibagh on December 14. Mofazzal could identify Mueen, who was his student. But Mofazzal was still taken to an unknown place and killed. His body was never found.
Charge 8: On instructions of the duo a gang of three to four Al-Badr men abducted Prof Munier Chowdhury from his Central Road house on December 14 and killed him at an unknown place. His body too could not be found.
Charge 9: Mueen and Ashraf led a gang of Al-Badr to abduct Shahidullah Kaiser, the then joint editor of daily Sangbad, from his Kayettuli house on December 14 and killed him. His body could not be found.
Charge 10: Armed Al-Badr led by the duo abducted Fazle Rabbee, a professor of Clinical Medicine & Cardiology of Dhaka Medical College, from his Siddeswari house on December 15 and killed him at Rayerbazar mass grave. His body was recovered from the mass grave.
Charge 11: On instructions of the duo, a gang picked up Dr Alim Chowdhury from his Purana Paltan residence at gunpoint on December 15. Blindfolded, his body was later found together with numerous martyrs at Rayerbazar.
The tribunal in its verdict said all the events were sequenced together and were outcome of an organised plan carried out by the squad of Al-Badr in a similar pattern using the same vehicle.
The last but not least, the tribunal in its observation said the bereaved families of martyred intellectuals started a new battle for survival, even after the war ended. Despite untold pains and hurdles, the widows of the martyrs brought up their children properly.
"They are great mothers indeed and [they] deserve due state acknowledgement."