Top Jamaat leader Sayedee to be in prison until death

Updated - June 13, 2016 09:46 am IST

Published - September 17, 2014 11:22 am IST - DHAKA

Revising death sentence, the Appellate Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court has reduced sentence of top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee to ‘imprisonment till death’ for crimes against humanity in 1971.

The full bench delivered the ruling on Sayedee’s appeal against his death sentence on Wednesday. Pronouncing the verdict, Chief Justice M Muzammel Hossain said the 74-year Jamaat leader would have to remain imprisoned “for the rest of his natural life”.

Sayedee, naeb e ameer of the party, had been given the death penalty for two counts of crimes against humanity on Feb 28, 2013 by a war crimes tribunal.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam has said the verdict of the appeal has disappointed them, but the truth about the Jamaat-e-Islami leader has been revealed. Defence counsels said they did not agree with the verdict and that they expected acquittal.

Of the 20 charges against him, the top Jamaat leader was given the death penalty by the trial court for the two — the murders of one Ibrahim Kutti, and for setting fire to Hindu households in northern Pirojpur district during Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The Supreme Court verdict sentenced Sayedee on five charges of the 20 that were framed against him. The verdict reduced Sayedee’s death sentence for Ibrahim Kutti’s murder to imprisonment for 12 years.

In its second appeal verdict of a war crimes case, the Supreme Court sentenced Sayedee to prison until death for three charges. These include the murder and arson in a Hindu neighbourhood, abduction and rape of three sisters of Gauranga Saha, who was a prosecution witness and identified Sayedee 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.

Sayedee was also sentenced to prison until death for forcible conversion of 100-150 Hindus.

Six other charges were also proven beyond doubt but no sentencing followed as he had already been given the death penalty by the trial court. Sayedee, in May last year, appealed against the death sentence, seeking acquittal. The prosecution appealed for punishment for the six other proven charges for the sake of ‘full justice’.

Security was beefed up across the country as soon as it was known that the Appellate Division would announce the verdict on Wednesday. Law-enforcing agencies said security had been planned keeping in mind the massive violence unleashed by Jamaat supporters after Sayedee’s verdict was given by the tribunal last year.

At least 70 people including policemen lost their lives in the violence. At least 200 others were injured and attacks were carried out on Hindus.

Sayedee, whose trial began in Oct., 2011, was the first person to be prosecuted for war crimes. He became a member of the local Peace Committee, an infamous social platform mobilised centrally by right-wing political parties opposed to Bangladesh’s independence.

Law enforcers scuffled with Gonojagoron Morcha activists as they try to break through a police barricade in Dhaka University on their way to High Court premise from Shahbagh intersection protesting against the verdict.

The Shahbagh Mancha, which now faced split, rejected the verdict. “The verdict is an outcome of a compromise [of the government] with Jamaat”, remarked Imran H Sarker, spokesperson of a faction of the Mancha.

The other faction of the Gonojagoron Mancha led by Kamal Pasha Chowdhury also brought out a procession from Shahbagh in protest against the verdict.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has called a country-wide shutdown for Thursday and Sunday to mount pressure on the government to release Delwar Hossain Sayedee from jail. The 48-hour hartal will start from 6 a.m. on Thursday and continue until 6 a.m. Friday. It will resume at 6 a.m. on Sunday and end on 6 a.m. on Monday, said a statement by acting chief Mokbul Ahmad on Wednesday.

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