Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence it handed down to senior Jamaat-e- Islami leader and key financier Mir Quasem Ali for committing war crimes during the country’s 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan. The five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha pronounced a single-word judgement in the court room.
“Rejected,” said top judge, who is the first Hindu to occupy the post in the Muslim-majority country, about 64-year-old Ali’s appeal. Ali is considered as the key-financier of Jamaat, which was opposed to Bangladesh’s 1971 independence from Pakistan.
In his brief comments after the verdict, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told reporters that Ali could now seek presidential clemency as his last resort to save himself from the gallows. “He now could be (sent) to (the) gallows anytime if he does not seek clemency or his mercy petition is rejected,” Alam said.
Ali’s lawyers were not immediately available for comments. The decision paves the way for Ali’s execution unless he is pardoned by the president. Ali, also a media doyen, filed the review petition after the apex court published its full verdict and the International Crimes Tribunal issued the death warrant against him on June 6.
Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has called the trials a long overdue effort to obtain justice for war crimes, four decades after Bangladesh split from Pakistan.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women in the 1971 war.
He owns several business houses and media outlets including a now suspended TV channel and is a central executive council member of Jamaat-e-Islami. He was convicted of running a militia torture cell, Al Badr, that carried out killings of several people. Three million people were said to have been massacred in the war by the Pakistani army and their local collaborators.
Prosecution lawyers had earlier said Ali had exhausted all efforts to influence his trial on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War. They had said that Ali made a USD 25 million deal with US lobby firm Cassidy and Associates for engaging with the governments of the United States and Bangladesh to protect “his interest”.
During the appeal hearing against his death sentence the state-side submitted to the court a receipt issued by the US lobby firm for what it said “professional service”. The evidence suggested that in March, 2014, another deal worth of USD 50,000 was struck with the same lobby firm on Ali’s behalf for “condemning” the actions of the International Crimes Tribunal-Bangladesh.
Under the deal, the firm was asked to do everything possible to get incorporated an anti-ICT-BD legislative language in the House/Senate Department. Four people, including three Jamaat leaders and one BNP stalwart have been hanged so far since the war crimes trial process began six years ago while two others died in prison of old age.
Despite being a young leader of the then Jamaat student wing ‘Islami Chhatra Sangha’in 1971, Ali created fear in the minds of the people by his ruthless and brutal activities particularly in southeastern port city of Chittagong, where he ran an infamous torture camp at a hotel.
As the war broke out, he was entrusted with the position of general secretary of ICS’s then East Pakistan unit. He discharged his responsibilities remaining in that position until the Pakistani troops surrendered on December 16, 1971. During the Liberation War, he acted as the commander of notorious Al-Badr Bahini and set up torture camps at different locations in Chittagong with one being at Mohamaya Dalim hotel where he used to detain, persecute and kill pro-independence people and dump their bodies in the Karnaphuli river.
After independence he went in to hiding along with most of his fellow perpetrators of 1971 war crimes but managed to obtain his BA degree from Dhaka Ideal College in 1974. His counsels earlier said Ali reportedly runs 30 Jamaat-backed institutes including media houses.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) handed him down the death on November 2, 2014. He later filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against his conviction. The apex court on March 8, 2016, upheld his capital punishment with Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha
pronouncing, “the sentence (of the tribunal) is maintained”.
On June 6, 2016, the apex court released the full text of its 244-page judgment. “He (Ali) does not deserve any leniency on the question of sentence on consideration of the nature and gravity of offence…The accused directly participated in the perpetration of most barbarous acts unknown to human civilization,” the apex court verdict had said.
“These crimes cannot be compared with ordinary crimes. They are of incomparable scale and seriousness,” it read.