Top Jamaat leader's death sentence upheld by Bangladesh SC

Top Jamaat leader's death sentence upheld by Bangladesh SC

 Bangladesh's Supreme Court today upheld the death sentence against the second highest ranking leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami for war crimes, including massacre of intelligentsia whom he termed "agents of India", during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha's four-member bench confirmed the death penalty for 67-year-old Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general and a former commander of Al-Badr, the militia raised by Pakistan to crush the Bangladesh's struggle for independence.

"(The death penalty is) maintained," pronounced Chief Justice Sinha nearly three weeks after the bench wrapped up the hearing on the appeal against the death penalty verdict handed down by the Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal.

The verdict evoked contrasting reactions, with many hailing it while Jamaat calling a strike for tomorrow, slamming the trial as "farcical". A statement by the party's acting chief Maqbul Ahmad called for the countrywide shutdown from 6 AM Wednesday to 6 AM Thursday.

Mujahid had led the infamous Gestapo-like 'Al-Badr' militia, an elite auxiliary force of Pakistani troops, to crush the independence struggle. He was found guilty in five of the seven charges pressed against him.

In one of the major charges, Mujahid was convicted for engaging the Al Badr in massacring dozens of top Bangladeshi intelligentsia, including scientists, academics and journalists, just two days ahead of the Pakistani surrender on December 16, 1971.

"The court found that the intellectuals were massacred by Al Badr under Mujahid's leadership while the Pakistani troops were busy with their preparedness for surrender," attorney general Mahbub-e-Alam told reporters after the verdict.

Mujajid filed his appeal on August 11 last year against his capital punishment handed down by the country's International Crimes Tribunal-2 on July 17, 2013.

The tribunal had said it found Mujahid had played an "active role in encouraging them (Al-Badr) to liquidate the pro-liberation Bengali civilians terming them 'miscreants' or 'agents of India'."

He was a minister in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led four-party alliance government (2001-2006) with Jamaat being its crucial partner.

Under a previous Supreme Court decision, he can now file a petition within next 15 days seeking a review of the judgement by the apex court itself as his last legal resort to evade the gallows.

Mujahid's lawyers said they planned to file the petition.
Demands for the trial of the war criminals resurfaced in 2008 largely after he commented that the "anti-liberation forces never existed" and denied Jamaat's role in 1971. The Jamaat-e-Islami called the liberation war a "civil war" which further infuriated the people as demands for trial grew louder.

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