Convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal of the torture and murder of freedom fighters and pro-liberation people at several torture camps in the port city of Chittagong, Mir Quasem’s wartime barbarity aimed to implement the blueprint of Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan occupation force.
Over the last four decades, he became one of the most influential leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami and one of its key financiers by establishing businesses, including newspapers and banks, with the help of his party. His success was aided by the reluctance of successive governments to initiate much-expected war crimes trials.
Quasem, 64, whose brutality as chief of the al-Badr force in Chittagong earned him the nicknames of “Bangali Khan”, “Khan Shaheb” and “Sardar”, was executed at Kashimpur Central Jail (Part 2) last night.
Jail Superintendent Prashanta Kumar Banik confirmed the execution had taken place at 10:30pm. It is the first execution of a war criminal at Kashimpur jail.
Convicted prison inmates Shahjahan, Din Islam, Ripon and Shahin carried out the hanging of the war criminal, Iftekhar confirmed to the Dhaka Tribune yesterday. At 12:32am, the ambulance bearing his remains left Kashimpur Jail and headed towards Manikganj.
Before Quasem, five other war criminals have been found guilty of wartime crimes and hanged – four linked to Jamaat and one to the BNP. Three of the executed Jamaat leaders were top leaders of the al-Badr in Dhaka and Mymensingh during the war.
Jamaat has called an eight-hour-long countrywide shutdown for tomorrow.
Speculation over Quasem’s execution, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s money man, has run rampant since the beginning of the war crimes trials; Mir Quasem had repeatedly tried to hinder the trial, spending large sums of money on lobbyists to undermine the process.
As the end drew near, there were questions over whether or not presidential clemency would be sought. But Kashimpur Jail Superintendent Prashanta on Friday confirmed that the war criminal had decided not to admit to his crimes and plead for his life.
Later, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that as he had not sought clemency, there was no bar to executing the verdict.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday afternoon said the verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal given on November 3, 2014 would be implemented at any time.
The execution order reached the jail around 4pm.
The jail authorities called Quasem’s family around 2pm and asked them to come to the jail for what would be their final meeting. At least 43 members of the family went to the jail around 3:30pm and 38 of them were allowed to meet the death-row convict. They left the jail premises around 6:10pm.
Ambulance carrying war criminal Mir Quasem’s body leaves Kashimpur Jail Photo:Mahmud Hossain Opu
As they left, Quasem’s wife Khandker Ayesha Khatun said the war criminal was not afraid of accepting death. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to get a martyr’s death like this. My husband told me that he considered himself lucky for that.”
Outside the jail, freedom fighters Abul Kalam Azad and Mohammad Akram Hossain expressed their gratitude to the prime minister for executing the verdict.
They demanded the closure of the Jamaat-backed Islami Bank and the cancellation of the citizenship of the war criminal’s children.
Meanwhile, our Manikganj correspondent Matiur Rahman reported that law enforcers and the district administration had completed their preparations for the burial of Quasem in his ancestral village, despite resistance by local freedom fighters and war crimes trial campaigners.
The OC of Harirampur police Nazrul Islam said preparations were taken to bury Quasem in his native village Chala. He said at least 200 law enforcers had been deployed.
Thirty-eight members of his family had arrived at Chala village where the grave site had been dug by around 11:30pm.
Local Awami League leaders and activists protested the burial of Quasem in the village and announced that they would resist it.
The process of his execution began after the Appellate Division released the full verdict of Quasem’s review petition on August 30, several hours after rejecting the plea. Copies of the document were then sent to the International Crimes Tribunal and the authorities concerned.
The full judgement was read out to Quasem at the jail on August 31 which made the war criminal a little nervous, according to jail sources. He then sought some time to decide on the clemency matter – his last lifeline.
Failure to prove alibi
The war crimes tribunal sentenced Quasem to death in 2014 on two charges including the killing in Chittagong of seven people after they were abducted, and gave him a 72-year prison sentence on eight other proven charges of abduction, conspiracy and planning.
On March 8 this year, the Appellate Division upheld the death sentence on one count – for his direct involvement in abducting, torturing and killing young freedom fighter Jasimuddin at Dalim Hotel, an al-Badr torture camp led by Quasem.
The war criminal sought a review of the verdict after the apex court published the full verdict on June 6 and the tribunal issued the death warrant the same day.
The defence spent more than two months for preparation of the review petition hearing which began on August 24.
On August 30, Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who led a five-member Appellate Division bench, upheld the death penalty for Quasem. Following the verdict, Quasem’s principal counsel and BNP leader Khandker Mahbub Hossain claimed the death sentence had been awarded based on false allegations and false depositions.
During the hearing, Mahbub told the court that the prosecution had failed to prove the allegations against his client. On the abduction and murder of Jasim, he prayed to the court, if possible, to award him a “light sentence” claiming that Quasem had not been the principal offender.
Earlier, Quasem’s counsels at the tribunal claimed that he had not been present in Chittagong when the offences had been committed.
Quasem was a key player behind the formation of the notorious al-Badr force in Chittagong. He set up makeshift torture camps at different places in the port city including Mahamaya Bhaban (later renamed Dalim Hotel) in the Andarkilla area.
Apart from Dalim Hotel, there were many other torture camps including Islamia Hotel in the Nandan Kanon area, Salma Manzil in Panchlaish area, Dost Mohammad building in the Chamrar Gudam area and Dewan Hotel in the Dewanhat area of the port city.
He went into hiding after independence and reappeared in politics in 1977 after the Islami Chhatra Sangha recommenced operations after changing its name to Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Mir Quasem was indicted for abetting and facilitating the commission of offences of abduction, confinement, torture and murder of Jasim at Dalim Hotel. Jasim, a freedom fighter from Sandweep, was picked up from an unknown place of Chittagong town by al-Badr men at any time after the day of Eid-ul-Fitr in 1971 on plan of Mir Quasem.
On November 28, on Quasem’s direction and hint, the members of the al-Badar force tortured him to death in confinement and then threw his dead body into the Karnaphuli River.
After his detention, Jasim was tortured at Dalim Hotel and later brought to a room where more freedom fighters were kept. One commanded al-Badr men by telling “the dirty fellow has not yet died, throw him inside so that the detainees there can understand the consequence of not disclosing truth,” the witness said.
With this they threw down the youth inside their room, left the place and locked the door. Advocated Shafiul Alam (co-detainee in the room) told witness Sanaullah Chowdhury that the man who commanded was Mir Quasem Ali.
[Adil Sakhawat, Arifur Rahman Rabbi, Kamrul Hasan, Ashif Islam Shaon and our Gazipur correspondent Raihanul Islam Akand contributed to the report]