Jamaat-e-Islami party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami.
Motiur Rahman Nizami found responsible for killing of secular intellectuals during 1971 War
A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal on Wednesday handed death penalty to Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami for crimes, which include the killings of nation’s leading intellectuals during the country’s War of Liberation in 1971.
The 71-year-old, who served as a senior minister during the tenure of the Khaleda Zia–led government, has also been awarded life sentence in other charges of crimes against humanity.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1), one of the two tribunals, found the Jamaat chief guilty in eight out of 16 charges levelled against him in a historic trial that began nearly four decades after Bangladesh’s emergence as an independent country.
The court said Nizami, purportedly an Islamic scholar, misinterpreted the Koran to encourage his followers to conduct a massive genocide and atrocities. The defence, however, termed the verdict “not based on evidence”, and said it would appeal against the verdict.
However, the long-awaited verdict was hailed by scores of political and social-cultural organisations who termed it “a curse removed” of impunity to all those who perpetrated the worst crimes against humanity in the name of religion and Pakistan.
The operative part of the 204-page judgment was read out by the tribunal’s chairman Justice Enayetur Rahim in the three-member war crimes tribunal amid tightened security.
Jamaat’s ‘ameer’ since November 2000, Nizami has already been given death penalty in the sensational Chittagong arms haul case in January this year as he was the Industries Minister then.
With Wednesday’s verdict, six top Jamaat leaders have been awarded sentences for crimes against humanity.
Motiur Rahman Nizami was the President of the then Jamaat student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (now Islami Chhatra Shibir) that turned into the Pakistan army’s infamous auxiliary force Al Badr in 1971.
The tribunal found the Jamaat chief to be criminally responsible for the execution of leading secular intellectuals and conspiracy to commit war crimes.
One of the charges proved said that Nizami, as the key leader of the Al Badr killing squad, was complicit in the torture, murder, rape and the training given to local Pakistani collaborators who went on to commit crimes against humanity.
Nizami was also found guilty of heading the “Gestapo-like attacks” largely around Dec 14, 1971 to eliminate the top Bengali professionals and intellectuals just two days before Bangladesh won its independence on Dec 16.
With his trademark Jinnah cap, clad in a white kurta and brown vest over it, Nizami sat in the courtroom looking almost blankly in sharp contrast to the powerful minister he used to be.
The ICT-1 framed 16 charges against Nizami in 2012. He was charged with conspiring with the Pakistani army, planning and inciting crimes; involvement in murders, rapes, looting and destruction of property; and commissioning internationally recognised wartime crimes in 1971.
But it took around one-and-a-half years for the completion of the trial.
The Jamaat chief played a key role in forming the four-party alliance ahead of the 2001 election and led his party to taste state power along with their key ally the BNP.
Breaking away from its usual trend, the Jamaat-e-Islami has not called for a shutdown on Wednesday, but called three-day countrywide shutdown from Thursday protesting the conviction of their top leader. However, State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal warned that all necessary action would be taken to contain the situation.
Jamaat’s main political ally, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, remained tight-lipped without making any comment on the verdict.