A Bangladesh tribunal on Tuesday deferred the verdict on the chief of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e- Islami, accused of war crimes during the country’s liberation war against Pakistan in 1971, at the last minute after authorities said he was sick and could not be moved from jail. Motiur Rahman Nizami, 69, is charged with 16 counts of war crimes including murder, rape, looting, abatement and the massacre of Bengali intellectuals during the liberation war and could face the death penalty.
“Reviewing all aspects, we have come to the conclusion that it will not be logical to deliver the verdict today… the judgment is kept on CAV (Curia Advisari Vult or reserving of judgement),” said Justice M Enayetur Rahim, chairman of the three-member panel of Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal.
The special court was set to pronounce the judgment on Tuesday. Legal experts said the legal term, CAV, meant that the judges would like to take time to deliver the verdict. Ahead of the deferring of the judgement, the tribunal sought opinions of both the prosecution and defence lawyers, referring a letter to them from the prison authorities informing the court about Nizami’s illness.
Both the sides said under the law, the accused, if detained in jail, must appear before the court when the verdict is delivered, unless one deliberately refuses to appear, suffers from prolonged illness or is set free on bail. “His (Nizami) blood pressure rose and he was given medication,” senior Jail Superintendent Farman Ali told reporters.
They are planning to send him to a specialised state-run facility to be treated for his sickness, he said. The charges against Nizami include the murder of 70 people and torching of 72 houses in December, 1971, in Pabna’s Bera Upazila, murdering 450 people in Demra and Baushia villages and killing many more in front of a Hindu temple in Santhiya Upazila.
About three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the liberation war, according to official estimates. Nizami, the then head of the East-Pakistan unit of Jamaat’s student affiliate — Islami Chhatra Shangha — is one of the last high-profile accused in the case. Almost the entire leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami stands accused of war crimes. Eight people have been so far handed down death sentences and two others were sentenced to life term since the trial of war crimes began in 2011 by two tribunals set up by the Awami League government.
Earlier, the authorities deployed paramilitary BorderGuard Bangladesh (BGB), elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and armed police to keep a vigil in the capital and other major cities fearing a possible backlash after the verdict was given. Police and RAB specially set up four layers of security continued…