A special tribunal yesterday found four Noakhali men guilty of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War and sentenced three to death penalty and the other to 20-year jail.
All four were members of Razakar Bahini, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army, in 1971 and were involved in the killing of more than 100 people including two unarmed freedom fighters under Shudharam Police Station in Noakhali.
“It has been found with great shame that the convicts, despite being Bangalees, consciously sided with the Pakistani occupation army and took culpable stance to wipe out the pro-liberation civilians in a beastly manner,” the International Crimes Tribunal-1 observed.
Of the convicts, Abul Kalam alias AKM Monsur, 67, Amir Ahmed alias Razakar Amir Ali, 70, and Md Joynal Abedin, 73, have been given capital punishment. Abdul Kuddus, 84, got the 20-year jail sentence.
Monsur is believed to have fled from the country, while the rest three are behind bars.
All of them except Joynal were involved with anti-liberation Muslim League before joining the local Razakar force, of which Monsur was a commander.
After independence, Monsur left Noakhali and took shelter in Savar. Later he and Amir joined BNP. He is the joint secretary of pro-BNP Zia Parishad and convener of its Dhaka district unit, according to the prosecution.
The tribunal said two national newspapers had published reports on Monsur's role in 1971 before investigation began in the case.
“But surprisingly, this particular accused, who has by this time created his mega business world in the country, could not be arrested. It is gravely frustrating indeed,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal directed the home secretary and the inspector general of police to “initiate rapid, effective and appropriate measures” to arrest the convict.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam yesterday also expressed deep shock at the deaths of passengers and crew of a US-Bangla aircraft that crashed in Kathmandu on Monday.
The other two members of the tribunal are Justice Amir Hossain and Judge Md Abu Ahmed Jamadar.
Zahid Imam, conducting prosecutor of the case, expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
Defence counsel Gazi MH Tamim, however, said his clients did not get justice and they would file an appeal after talking with his clients.
According to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, a war crimes convict can file an appeal with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of the verdict's pronouncement.
With the latest verdict, the war crimes tribunals have so far delivered 31 judgements against 68 people. Forty-two of them have been sentenced to death.
RECOGNITION OF MARCH 7 SPEECH
As the tribunal delivered the verdict, it mentioned Unesco's recognition of the historic March 7 Speech by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“At the outset of this segment of verdict, we consider it relevant to note that the nation feels immense pride that the historic March 7 Speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, has been recently recognised by the Unesco as a world documentary heritage,” the tribunal observed.
“The glowing March 7 speech of Bangabandhu calling on the freedom-loving Bangalees crucially activated and inspired the whole nation, excepting a few pro-Pakistan people, to get prepared for the Liberation War,” it added.
The tribunal said the judgement which is being rendered in the great month of March “not only aims to come out from the culture of impunity by punishing the offenders but also to make an exposure of the truth -- the truth of horrific atrocious activities carried out in 1971 during the nine-month-long Liberation War in collaboration with the local pro-Pakistan people belonging to the auxiliary forces.
“We do believe that this truth must make space to our new generation and the global community as well of knowing what an ocean of blood the nation had to cross in achieving independence of its motherland -- Bangladesh.”
CONVICTS, CHARGES AND PUNISHMENT
Amir, Monsur and Joynal were given death penalty for killing more than 100 people, 41 of them are identified by names, of Sreepur and Sonapur villages on June 15, 1971.
Abdul Kuddus was given 20 years in jail for the same charges.
The three were given death penalty also for the abduction and killing of two unarmed freedom fighters of Pashim Karimpur and Debipur villages on September 13 and torture of two other freedom fighters.
Amir and Monsur were given death penalty for a third charge -- abduction, torture and killing of at least nine people of Ramharitaluk, Debipur and Uttar Chakla villages on September 13.