You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Bangladesh court upholds life term for Jamaat leader over 1971 war crimes

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-05-2017 Anisur Rahman

Dhaka: Bangladesh’s apex court on Monday upheld the life sentence given to a war criminal for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War while siding with Pakistani troops.

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court dismissed both the pleas filed by the state and defence, and stood by its earlier judgement to jail Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, 77, until his death. A five-member bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the verdict after a two-day hearing. “He (Sayeedi) is sentenced to imprisonment of life, rest of his natural life,” Chief Justice Sinha said. Both the state and the defence had filed petitions seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2014. The state wanted a death sentence while the defence pushed for an acquittal. It was the first case of a war crimes trial in which the state sought review to maintain the tribunal’s verdict. The trial of Sayeedi began at the International Crimes Tribunal-1 in 2011 and a verdict was pronounced in 2013.

Of the 20 charges against him, Sayeedi was given the death sentence for two—the murders of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisabali, and for setting fire to Hindu households in Pirojpur in 1971, bdnews24.com reported. Described by followers as a “firebrand Islamic preacher”, Sayeedi’s death penalty in February 2013 triggered violence in parts of the country regarded as Jamaat strongholds, leaving scores dead. The situation at that time had prompted authorities to call out paramilitary troops to quell his supporters, who were swelled by rumours that Sayeedi’s image was seen in the moon, in a sign of his innocence.

The Supreme Court verdict, delivered in 2014, sentenced Sayeedi on five charges of the 20 that were framed against him. The verdict reduced Sayeedi’s death sentence for Ibrahim Kutti’s murder to imprisonment for 12 years. In its second appeal verdict in a war crimes case, the apex court sentenced Sayedee to prison until death for three charges which include the murder of Bisabali, arson in a Hindu neighbourhood and the abduction and rape of three sisters of Gauranga Saha, the report said. Saha was a prosecution witness and identified Sayeedi as the man who had handed over his sisters to the Pakistani Army to be taken away as sex slaves. They were returned after three days. Sayeedi was also sentenced to prison until death on charges of forcible conversions of 100-150 Hindus, it said.

Six other charges were also proven beyond doubt but no sentencing followed as he had already been given the death penalty. Fifteen months after the verdict, the Supreme Court published the full verdict in December 2015, paving the way for reviews. Sayeedi is the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, an organization that sided with the Pakistan Army during the 1971 Liberation War and committed war crimes. He was arrested from his house in Dhaka in June 2010 in a case filed for hurting religious sentiments.

Bangladesh launched the belated process of trying 1971 war criminals in 2010, with the accused mostly being leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, which was opposed to Bangladheshi independence. The country has executed six 1971 war crimes convicts, five of them being Jamaat leaders and one from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. PTI

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon