A war crimes tribunal yesterday handed down death penalty to Abdus Subhan, a senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, for the heinous crimes including the killing of 400 people, mostly Hindus, in Pabna during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.
Subhan’s offences include murder, abduction, confinement, torture and extermination as crimes against humanity. He is the incumbent nayeb-e-ameer (vice-president) of Jamaat, a “criminal organisation” that sided with the Pakistani occupation forces during the war.
The three-member International Crimes Tribunal 2, led by Justice Obaidul Hassan, found him guilty on six out of the nine charges pressed against him. He was sentenced to death on three charges that include genocide, murder, abduction, loot and arson.
The court said Subhan, now 79, had committed the crimes in disguise of the spirit of Islamic leadership, but his attitude and role in 1971 did not go with the philosophy and spirit of true Islam.
He remained culpably closer to the Pakistani occupation army and the razakar force which were engaged in wiping out the pro-liberation Bangali civilians, “in furtherance of policy and plan,” the tribunal observed.
The tribunal doubted if Subhan had any sign of humanity and kindness in him as a human being when he had committed murders and other heinous offences.
“In respect of the event of killing civilians dragging them out of the Ishwardi central mosque, he [Subhan] and his accomplices are found to have had caused their horrendous death by inflicting indiscriminate sword blow.
“What a brutality! It is hard to believe indeed that the accused was a man of slightest humanity and kindness,” the tribunal said in its verdict.
The war crimes tribunal labelled him as a “high-level offender” and said his position in Jamaat’s Pabna district unit in 1971 and potential affiliation with the district Peace Committee “aggravates his level as an offender.”
Condemning the acts, the tribunal said: “It stands proved from the evidence that by getting actively involved with the locally-stationed Pakistani occupation army, Biharis and razakars, Sobhan was visibly intended to collaborate with the Pakistani occupation army since its rolling into Pabna, in carrying out dreadful killings, abduction confinement, torture, mass killing, with extreme fierceness.”
Most of the murder victims were Hindus, the court said.
Subhan was sentenced to imprisonment until death on two charges and five years in prison for another offence.
But the three charges, the tribunal said, would merge into one sentence of death. The Jamaat policymaker was acquitted on the three remaining charges as those were not proved beyond doubt.
The proved charges against Subhan “indubitably fall within the kind of such gravest crimes which tremble the collective conscience of mankind,” the tribunal said.
It also found evidence of Subhan’s physical participation in committing the incident of forcibly taking the victims to the killing site from Ishwardi central mosque and killing them there by indiscriminate stabbing and hitting by sword.
The tribunal said Subhan was now at an advanced age but it cannot be considered as a “mitigating factor” for reducing the punishment since the gravity of his offences were extreme. Apart from this, the crimes were committed in 1971 when he was young.
Earlier in the day, the Jamaat leader was produced before the tribunal at 11am from Dhaka Central Jail and the court started reading out the summary of 165-page verdict at 11:15am.
Tribunal members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam were present.
In the dock of the packed courtroom, Subhan remained calm and silent during the pronouncement of the verdict. He was wearing pyjamas and punjabi, sweater, black shoes, glasses and held a stick in his hand. After completion of pronouncement of the judgement, police escorted him out.
Security was beefed up on and around the court premises to ward off violence centring the pronouncement of the verdict amid blockade and hartal enforced by the BNP-Jamaat alliance. Transport movement was halted from Doel Chattar to High Court Mazar area since morning.
However, three crude bombs exploded around 11am near the tribunal building, situated behind the biochemistry department of Dhaka University, before the judges started delivering the verdict. Police could not arrest the miscreants.
Welcoming the verdict, prosecutor Sultan Mahmud Simon said: “We are happy. We were successful in proving the three charges on which Subhan was awarded the death penalty.”
He said Subhan was acquitted on three charges as they had failed to convince the tribunal. “We tried our best to prove those charges.”
On the other hand, Subhan’s lawyer Shishir Munir said they would appeal against the judgement. “The tribunal has taken into cognisance weak witness and evidences presented by the prosecution having legal and informative flaws.”
In 1972, Subhan was made accused by a special tribunal for collaborating with the Pakistani occupation forces and summoned. But he had already fled to Pakistan with former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam, according to the prosecution.
Death on three charges
Subhan was sentenced to death for aiding the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators in the killing of around 400 people in several villages of Satbaria union under Sujanagar upazila on May 12, 1971.
He was also awarded capital punishment on two other charges – killing five people and looting and torching of several houses in Sahapur village of Ishwardi on May 2, and the abduction and killing of three people and several unnamed others in Ishwardi on April 17-18.
The tribunal gave him imprisonment until death for killing five people and injuring three others at Juktitala village of Ishwardi on April 13, and the abduction and killing of 18 people at the end of November at Bharara village in May.
Meanwhile, the three charges from which Subhan was acquitted are killing and torching of houses at Kulunia and Dogachhi villages in Pabna on May 11, abduction and killing of two people of Dublia Bazar in the first week of September, and abduction and killing of four people at Betbaria village in Ishwardi at the end of November.
In the verdict, the tribunal said Sobhan had achieved significant trust of the Pakistani Army stationed in Pabna for his political ideology and extreme antagonistic mindset towards the War of Liberation and the people associated and sided with it.
Sobhan had accompanied the
group in launching the attacks that resulted in killings, large scale killings, massive destruction of civilians’ property, abduction, confinement and torture.
He was found to have had participated and substantially contributed, by his act or conduct forming part of attack, to the actual commission of the crimes, the judgement says.
Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami was also sentenced to death for committing crimes against humanity in Pabna and Dhaka during the war. In its judgement, the tribunal 1 said: “We are fully convinced that during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, the accused as the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha [now Islami Chhatra Shibir]as well as a high command of al-Badr Bahini actively participated in the atrocities committed in the occurrences…in Pabna and Dhaka in collaboration with razakars, al-Badrs and the Pakistani occupation forces.”
In a judgement, a tribunal earlier termed Jamaat a “criminal organisation.”
At Juktitala village in Ishwardi, five people were killed and three others injured on April 13 in his presence and under his leadership. Subhan was given life-term jail on this charge.
On May 20, under the leadership of Subhan, the Pakistani Army picked up 18 people from Bharara village and killed one of them instantly. Others had been tortured at Nurpur Power Plant. Later, some of them were killed near Debottar Bazar. At least 18 people were killed in the incident. On this charge, the tribunal awarded him imprisonment until death.
Subhan abducted two persons from Arankhola cattle market in Ishwardi on May 16. The hostages were tortured at the District Dak Bungalow. For this offence, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
The law enforcers arrested Subhan on September 20, 2012. After probing the allegations against him for 17 months, the tribunal’s investigation agency submitted its report to the prosecution on September 12, 2013.
Three days later, the prosecution submitted the charges to the tribunal 1. The court on December 31 last year framed nine charges against the Jamaat leader. Later, the case was transferred to the tribunal 2 for quick disposal.
The trial proceedings in the case was completed on December 4 last year.
The two war crimes tribunals have so far delivered 16 verdicts, while judgement in another case has been pending with the tribunal 1.
Source: Dhaka Tribune