This story was first published on May 4, 2014 at http://thedailystar.net
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death penalty for Muhammad Kamaruzzaman for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.
A war crimes tribunal awarded him the capital punishment a year and a half ago.
The apex court verdict has paved the way for execution of the Jamaat leader, a key organiser of the infamous Al-Badr Bahini responsible for abducting, torturing and killing freedom fighters, intellectuals and pro-liberation people in 1971.
Kamaruzzaman, 62, got the death sentence for the mass killing at Sohagpur in Sherpur on July 25, 1971. The SC upheld his conviction on this charge unanimously, and his death penalty by a majority decision.
The four-member SC bench headed by Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, however, commuted his death sentence to life term imprisonment for killing Golam Mostafa at Gridda Narayanpur village of Sherpur.
The court also found the Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general guilty of two more charges involving killing and torture, but acquitted him of another charge of killing.
On May 9 last year, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 found Kamaruzzaman guilty of five of the seven charges brought against him and sentenced him to death on two, life term on two charges and 10 years' jail on another. He was acquitted of two counts of war crimes.
In its short verdict, the SC did not clarify the grounds of its sentence order. It will be known once the full text of the judgment is released.
The convict, now in a Kashimpur jail, was not present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. Normally, an accused is not produced before the appeal court.
But he heard the news on radio, a private TV channel reports.
REVIEW OR NO REVIEW
After the judgment, confusions surfaced again as to whether a war crimes convict can file a review petition.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said Kamaruzzaman had no right to move such a petition, as he was tried under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973. It is a special law and it does not allow any of the parties to file a review petition.
But Kamaruzzaman's lawyer Mohammad Shishir Manir told The Daily Star his client had the legal right to move a review petition and that they would do so.
Contacted, eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik said the SC usually entertains review petitions on two grounds -- if there are serious factual errors in the judgment and if an inappropriate law is applied.
"But the Appellate Division hardly changes its verdict in the review," he told The Daily Star.
Amid tight security in and around the court premises, the SC judges took seats at 9:10am and Justice Sinha pronounced the short verdict in about a minute.
Other members of the bench were Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik.
A few hundred people, including lawyers, journalists, justice seekers and observers were present in the court. Kamaruzzaman's son Hasan Iqbal was also there.
Different organisations, including Gonojagoron Mancha, and people of Sohagpur in Sherpur hailed the verdict and brought out processions. People were seen distributing sweetmeats in many places, including Sohagpur.
"With agonising pain and trauma, we had been waiting to see him punished. We are happy, but we would be happier when we see him hanged," said a rape victim of Sohagpur, who also lost her husband at the hands of Pakistani army and its collaborators accompanied by Kamaruzzaman.
Kamaruzzaman's family members and defence counsels denounced the verdict, saying they did not get justice.
According to legal experts, Kamaruzzaman will be hanged a few weeks after the SC releases the certified copy of its verdict, which may take two to three months.
In the case of Abdul Quader Mollah, it took 82 days after the SC sentenced him to death for war crimes last year. The SC gave the short verdict on September 17 and the Jamaat leader was hanged on December 12.
Under the law, the war crimes tribunal will issue a death warrant for Kamaruzzaman upon getting the certified copy of the SC verdict and will send the warrant to the prison authorities, the home ministry and the district magistrate concerned.
The jail authorities will then take steps for implementing the warrant.
The experts further said the jail code was not applicable to Kamaruzzaman, since he was sentenced under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, which is a special law.
Under the jail code, death sentence is executed not before 21 days and not after 28 days of the jail authorities' receipt of the certified copy.
Citing Quader Mollah's example again, the jurists said the convict was hanged four days after the tribunal issued the death warrant.
The SC released the full judgment in Quader Mollah's case on December 5 last year and the tribunal received its certified copy on December 8. The tribunal issued the death warrant the same day and the prison authorities executed the order four days later.
Quader Mollah had filed two petitions seeking review, but the SC dismissed those. Nearly a year on, the SC has neither disclosed the grounds for the dismissal nor has it released the full text of the dismissal order.
Kamaruzzaman, however, can seek presidential clemency if he wants.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters the government was going to take necessary steps for Kamaruzzaman's execution soon.
He added it was possible to hang the war criminal on the basis of the short verdict of the SC after its certified copy was released.
Son of Insan Ali Sarkar of Kumri Mudipara in Sherpur, Kamaruzzaman was a top leader of greater Mymensingh Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, during the 1971 war.
As an organiser and top leader of Al-Badr Bahini, an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army, he was involved in numerous crimes in greater Mymensingh during the nine-month war.
The Jamaat leader was arrested on July 13, 2010, in a criminal case from the Supreme Court premises and has been behind bars since. He was shown arrested in the war crimes case on August 2 that year.
After the tribunal verdict, he filed an appeal with the SC in June last year and sought acquittal from all charges.
Kamaruzzaman's is the third appeal in war crimes cases on which the SC has given its verdict so far.
On September 17 this year, it commuted Delawar Hossain Sayedee's death sentence to life term in prison.
In Quader Mollah's case, the apex court overruled the verdict of the Tribunal-2 (which gave him life term), and sentenced him to death.