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POST TIME: 1 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Crimes against humanity
SC upholds death penalty for Azhar
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka

SC upholds death 
penalty for Azhar

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday upheld the death sentence of a top Jamaat-e-Islami leader ATM Azharul Islam for committing crimes against humanity during the War of Liberation in 1971. “The appeal is allowed in part,” a four-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain came up with the verdict by majority view. The other three-member of the bench are: Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Md Nuruzzaman. The ground and observation on which the SC delivered the verdict would be known after releasing the full text of the apex court verdict. Former Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general, Azharul Islam led the then student affiliate Islami Chhatra Sangha and a member of Al-Badr militia in Rangpur during country’s Liberation War in 1971.

After the verdict, chief defence counsel Advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told reporters that his client would file a review petition after getting the full copy of the verdict.

As per the law, the Jamaat leader will have to file the review petition with the SC within 15 days of receiving the certified copy of the judgment.

But the scope of a review petition is not equal to that of an appeal, the SC had pointed out in another war crimes verdict

earlier. If the apex court would not allow the review petition and appeal verdict remain unchanged, the Jamaat leader will have only one option to seek presidential clemency. The government will execute the death sentence if he fails to win the clemency.

Earlier, a total of five top Jamaat leaders were executed following the Appellate Division verdict on charges of wartime offences. But, no one sought presidential clemency after rejection of their review petitions by the apex court.

It is the eighth case to reach the final verdict after the much-awaited war crimes trial started in 2010 after the formation of International Crimes Tribunal.

In an immediate reaction, attorney general told reporters that the apex court upheld the death penalty of Jamaat leader in majority view on charges brought against him in charge number 2, 3, 4 and 6 while it acquitted him from charge number 5.

Expressing satisfaction over the verdict, the chief law officer of the state hoped that the certified copy of the verdict would get within short time.  

Law minister Anisul Huq has also expressed satisfaction over the verdict and said that the government would execute the apex court verdict on completion of all the legal procedure.

He said that it has been proved following the Appellate Division verdict that Azharul Islam had committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971, and the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has rightly sentenced him to death.

On December 30, 2014 the ICT 1 handed down death sentence to Azhar finding him guilty of aiding, facilitating and participating in war crimes at different areas in Rangpur district during the Liberation War.

On January 28 in 2015, Azhar filed his appeal challenging the ICT verdict that sentenced him to death for war crimes. Earlier on June 18, the Appellate Division started hearing arguments on the appeal from both the state and the defence.

The apex court completed the hearing kept the matter as a Case Awaiting Verdict (CAV) on July 10.

The prosecution brought charges against Azhar for his activities with the then Chhatra Sangha and collaboration with the Pakistan Army and attacked villages in Rangpur on April 17, 1971.

The prosecution also brought many charges against him including of torching and looting houses and killed over 1,200 Hindus. Another 200 Hindus were held and later killed at an undisclosed location. The incident is said to be the single biggest act of genocide in the war.

However, defence lawyer said that Azhar, who was an 18-year old intermediate student during the Liberation War, was picked in 2012 not for his role in 1971 but for his role against the undemocratic activities of the government.