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Dhaka Tribune

Gallows upheld for Mir Quasem

Update : 02 Sep 2016, 10:07 PM
Now the only option he has to save his life is seeking presidential clemency admitting the offences he had committed during Bangladesh's war of independence. The president has so far showed no mercy to any convicted war criminal since the ruling government initiated the historical trial. It implies that Quasem, an al-Badr commander of Chittagong during the Liberation War, will be executed in a few days. Jamaat-e-Islami has called a countrywide shutdown for today protesting the dismissal of its leader's review petition. Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who led a five-member Appellate Division bench, pronounced the order around 9am in a courtroom packed with lawyers and journalists, many tensed as the high-profile Jamaat leader has always tried to influence the trial. A large contingent of law enforcers was deployed in and around the court while war crimes trial campaigners were waiting outside the court to hear the judgement. “The petition is dismissed. We found him guilty. Conviction is maintainable,” the chief justice said in his judgement. Campaigners and state counsels cheered the verdict while Quasem's lawyers expressed discontent when talking to reporters later. The court also made a correction in its review verdict given on March 9 regarding charge 14. The charge, framed for torturing Nasiruddin at Dalim Hotel, earned him 10-year jail and the sentence was maintained by the Appellate Division. But it was not earlier mentioned in the verdict's operating part. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the government now could go ahead with preparations to execute the verdict as “there is no legal bar. But Mir Quasem can pray for presidential mercy as a citizen, but it is not a legal step.” He said: “All tension is dissolved. We are satisfied with the court order as the expectation of the nation has been fulfilled through the judgement.” The war crimes tribunal sentenced Quasem, now 64, to death on November 3, 2014 on two charges including killing of seven people after abduction in Chittagong, and gave him a total of 72-year imprisonment on eight other proven charges of abduction, conspiracy and planning. On March 8, the Appellate Division upheld the death sentence on one count – for abducting, torturing and killing young freedom fighter Jasimuddin at Dalim Hotel. The war criminal sought review of the verdict after the apex court published the full verdict and the tribunal issued death warrant on June 6. The defence spent more than two months for preparation, and the hearing finally began on August 24. Allegations surfaced that the moneyman of Jamaat has spent a large amount of money to make the trials controversial. During his appeal hearing, the attorney general placed documents before the court about his spending of $2.5m to engage a US-based lobbyist. Besides, the appeals court expressed dissatisfaction over the slag performances of the state counsels at the tribunal and its investigators. In this case, the defence counsels at different stage were seen trying to buy time to delay the trial. Following the verdict, Quasem’s principal counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain claimed that the death sentence had been awarded based on false allegations and false depositions. “I have nothing to say on what the apex court has upheld. But I shouted repeatedly that the verdict has been taken away by bringing false allegations and producing fake evidence before the court,” he said. “The future … the future generation and those who are in the legal sector across the world will scrutinise whether the verdict was justified or not,” he said. He, however, made no comment on his client’s seeking presidential mercy. During the hearing on the review plea, 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 “light sentence” on the charge claiming that Quasem had not been the principal offender. Quasem was a key player behind the formation of notorious al-Badr force in Chittagong. He set up makeshift torture camps at different places in the port city including Daleem Hotel in Andorkilla area. He was known as “Bangali Khan,” “Khan Saheb” and “Sarder” (referred to as Pakistani occupation forces) for his atrocities.Mir-Quasem-InfographicJasim’s storyMir 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 al-Badar Bahini tortured him to death in confinement and then his dead body was thrown 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 a youth inside their room and had left the place by keeping the room locked. Advocated Shafiul Alam (co-detainee in the room) told witness Sanaullah Chowdhury that the man who commanded was Mir Quasem Ali.What’s nextThe Supreme Court published the 29-page full text of the review judgement in the evening, which is the first step of executing the death sentence. Three certified copies of the judgement were sent to the tribunal, of them two for the jail authorities and the district magistrate. Death-row convict Quasem is now at the Kashimpur jail. The Home Ministry, and the state and the defence lawyers will also be notified about the verdict. Later the government will later fix a date to execute the verdict. Yesterday, when the attorney general was asked if the presidential clemency process could be delayed as the president is now in the UK and will return home on September 4, Mahbubey said it did not matter where the president was staying. “He can be informed,” the chief law officer of the country told reporters.Mir Quasem and his roleSon of Mir Tayeb Ali and Rabeya Begum, Quasem was born at Munsidangi Sutalori of Manikganj on December 31, 1952. He was also known as Piaru and Mintu. He got involved with Islami Chhatra Sangha, the radical student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, in 1967 while studying at Chittagong Collegiate School. In November 1971, he became the general secretary of Chhatra Sangha’s East Pakistan unit and as a top leader of the organisation he became chief of infamous al-Badr’s Chittagong city unit. The members of the killing squad were recruited from Chhatra Sangha. Al-Badr set up several torture camps in Chittagong during the war under the leadership of Mir Quasem. His men abducted many pro-liberation people and freedom fighters and tortured them to glean information on freedom fighters. He went into hiding after independence and reappeared in politics 1977 after Islami Chhatra Sangha started operation changing its name to Islami Chhatra Shibir.
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