21 killed in clashes after war crimes tribunal verdict

A war-crimes tribunal on Thursday handed down the death penalty to top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee for crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.

The three-member tribunal said eight out of 20 charges against the 73-year-old nayeb-e-ameer (vice-president) had been proved beyond doubt. The accused received the death penalty in two cases. Sayedee’s counsels said they would appeal the verdict in the appellate division of the Supreme Court.

The Jamaat has enforced a nationwide shutdown in protest. At least 21 persons were killed and nearly 200 injured as party cadre clashed with police in several areas.

The verdict was received with celebrations by the thousands of youths demonstrating at Shahbagh “Projonmo Chottor” (Generation Circle) demanding the death penalty for war crimes accused.

Thursday’s verdict concludes what is perhaps the most sensational war crimes case so far.

The judges said the prosecution has successfully established Sayedee’s role as the leader of the local Razakar unit in Perozpur, where he was involved in many crimes against humanity as a supporter of the Pakistan Army. The charges against the former lawmaker included looting, killing, arson, rape and forcefully converting Hindus into Muslims during the Liberation War.

Sayedee is the second to be convicted among the six top Jamaat leaders charged with crimes against humanity.

The 18-month-long proceedings had to negotiate difficult hurdles, including the resignation of a presiding judge and rehearing of closing arguments.

Thursday’s was the maiden verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal-1 and the third war crimes verdict to be delivered.

ICT-2, the other court dealing with war crimes, had sentenced Jamaat assistant secretary-general Abdul Quader Mollah to life imprisonment on February 5. It had on January 21 had handed the death sentence to former Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, known as Bachchu Razakar, for genocide and murder.

The Sheikh Hasina government established the first International Crimes Tribunal in March 2010. In Sayedee’s case, the prosecution proposed formal charges on July 11, 2011 alleging that he committed crimes as leader of a local Razakar unit, the vigilante militia created by the Pakistan Army. The tribunal took cognisance of the charges on July 14, 2011.