July 16, 2013

Ghulam Azam verdict - 90 years in prison

International Crimes Tribunal 1 (ICT-1) on Monday handed former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam 90 years in prison for conspiracies, planning, incitement to and complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity and murder of four civilians during the War of Liberation in 1971.
The three-member International Crimes Tribunal-1 pronounced the historic verdict against Ghulam Azam, now 91, in the crowded courtroom on the first floor of the Old High Court building in tight security.
‘Having considered the attending facts, legal position and the gravity and magnitude of the offences committed by the accused, we unanimously hold that he deserves the highest punishment i.e capital punishment … But in the same breath, we cannot overlook the mitigating circumstances which have come up before us for its due consideration,’ presiding judge Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said.
He said that Ghulam Azam was 91 years of age with his long ailment and the two factors had been considered in taking a lenient view in giving him punishment.
Ghulam Azam in panjabi, lungi and a white cap was produced before the tribunal in a wheelchair.
As the tribunal completed delivering the verdict at around 1:45pm, he was speechless, looking around blankly and touching his forehead sitting in the dock.
The law enforcers took him to the ground floor of the tribunal building.
Thousands of people, freedom fighters, political and cultural activists, who gathered outside the tribunal, burst into protest as the
tribunal handed Ghulam Azam 90 years in jail instead of death sentence.
The tribunal found him guilty on all 61 counts under five charges of conspiracy, planning, incitement to and complicity in committing genocide and crimes against humanity and murder of four civilians. He was indicted on May 13, 2012 on 61 counts.
The tribunal awarded him 10 years in jail each for conspiracy and planning, 20 years each for incitement to and complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity committed across the country and 30 years for the murder of Siru Miah and three other civilians in Brahmanbaria.
‘The period of sentences awarded to the accused shall run consecutively or till his death,’ Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said pronouncing the unanimous verdict.
Ghulam Azam is now undergoing treatment in the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital under the Dhaka Central Jail authorities.
This was the fifth verdict in war crimes cases in independent Bangladesh and the second by the ICT-1, constituted on March 25, 2010.
A large number of freedom fighters, lawyers, intellectuals, cultural activists and journalists were present in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
A few of junior lawyers of the defence team, including Saifur Rahman, Tariqul Islam and Sajjad Ali Chowdhury, were present though their seniors did not turn up because of what they said ‘unavoidable circumstances’.
Jamaat enforced a countrywide shutdown on the day to press for release of Ghulam Azam and other leaders facing the war crimes charges.
Emerging from the tribunal after the verdict, the prosecution chief coordinator, along with other members of the team, said he was not completely happy with the verdict as Ghulam Azam was not handed death sentence.
When asked whether they would appeal to the Appellate Division against the verdict, he said that they would decide after receiving and going through the full verdict.
Chief defence counsel Abdur Razzaq, at a press briefing at his Dhanmondi house said, ‘We are aggrieved. We are astonished. We think the verdict was emotional and devoid of justice. Such a verdict can hardly be found in the history of the world’s criminal cases. The prosecution has failed to prove any of the 61 counts against Ghulam Azam,’
He said that the defence would appeal against the verdict in the Appellate Division.
Ghulam Azam’s son Abdullahil Aman Azmi, coming out the tribunal, said that the case against his father was ‘a case of no evidence’.
He said that if justice had been done, his father would not have been given even a minute’s sentence. ‘He would have been freed if justice had been done.’
Azmi termed his father a ‘language movement hero’ who was general secretary of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union twice and the verdict was delivered to ‘destroy his image’.
On April 17, on completion of the closing arguments by the lawyers of the two sides, the tribunal reserved the verdict for pronouncement on a later date.
Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, before delivering the verdict, it had taken the tribunal about three months to collect reference books which caused the delay in the delivery of the verdict.
He said that the full judgement was of 243 pages and the tribunal would read out a summary judgement of 75 pages.
Besides the presiding judge, two other tribunal members – Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque – also read out parts of the verdict.
Bangladesh Today