Dhaka: A tribunal in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka yesterday handed the death penalty to a top opposition leader for war crimes, including mass killings, during the country’s war of independence 42 years ago.
The latest verdict came about two weeks after the apex court awarded the death penalty to a top Jamaat leader for war crimes, including mass killings. The International Crimes Tribunal handed the death sentence to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, now behind bars.
This is the first time the court has delivered a verdict on war crimes charges against an MP and leader of BNP, headed by former premier Khaleda Zia, a rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Justice A T M Fazle Kabir, said nine out of 23 charges, which include mass killings, murder, genocide and conspiracy to kill intellectuals during the Liberation War in 1971, were proved beyond reasonable doubt against the 64-year-old.
The three-member panel read out the summary of the 172-page verdict in a jam-packed court room in the presence of a huge crowd, particularly journalists and lawyers, amid tightened security in and around the tribunal.
Security has been beefed up in Dhaka and Chittagong. Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh troops have been deployed to thwart any untoward incident after the verdict against Chowdhury, a member of BNP’s standing committee, the highest policy-making body of the party.
This is the seventh war crimes verdict. Six current and former leaders of BNP’s key ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party had earlier been sentenced to either death or life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.
In April last year, Chowdhury was indicted on the charges of genocide, murders, abductions, torture in confinement, loot, arson attacks and complicity in other atrocities committed in Chittagong in 1971.
In his arguments, defence counsel A K M Fakhrul Islam claimed that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges and hoped his client would be acquitted.
After returning to power in January 2009, Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the tribunal in March 2010 to prosecute those who committed crimes against humanity during the nine-month war. The BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government “show trial” and said it was a domestic set-up without the oversight or involvement of the UN. IANS