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Dhaka Tribune

Little known but crimes equally grave

Update : 13 Nov 2014, 10:02 PM

He might not be as widely known as some of the other high profile war criminals, but the gravity of the crimes that he had committed against humanity in 1971 was not even an ounce lesser.

He is none other than fugitive Zahid Hossain Khokon, now 72, a razakar commander of Nagarkanda area in Faridpur district, who has been sentenced to death yesterday by International Crimes Tribunal. 

The tribunal found evidence of Zahid’s active participation in the most heinous of crimes including mass killing, rape, looting, destroying properties and forcing Hindus to become Muslims. 

Even a two-year-old baby was not spared when war criminal Zahid, widely known in his locality as Khokon Razakar, masterminded the indiscriminate killing of Bangalees during the 1971 Liberation War in Nagrakanda of Faridpur.

The tribunal in its verdict said: “It is well proved that Zahid Hossain Khokon substantially contributed to and facilitated mass killing...Followed by abduction, confinement, torture and other inhuman acts like plundering and arson.”

In the view of the three-member tribunal, Zahid’s offenses are “particularly shocking for the conscience of mankind.”

Due to his war-time atrocious role, Zahid came to be known in his locality as “Khokon Razakar.”

The tribunal tried Khokon, who was a local leader of anti-libration party Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971 and later joined BNP, in absentia as he remained fugitive during the trial.

But the state appointed a lawyer named Md Abdus Shukur Khan to defend Zahid who said he had never been able to contact Zahid or his closest relatives. 

When Zahid fled the country, he was a senior vice-president of the Nagarkanda unit of BNP and the elected mayor of the Nagarkanda municipality.

An investigation was initiated into his war-time crimes at the end of 2010 and he has been living in Sweden at his daughter’s house since.

Prosecutor Tureen Afroze said: “I saw Khokon Razakar in Sweden when I went there last December.” 

The three-member tribunal comprising Justice M Enayetur Rahim, Justice Jahangir Hossain and Anwarul Haque, unanimously found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of 10 of the 11 charges brought against him by the prosecution.

Of the 10 proved charges, the tribunal awarded the notorious war criminal death sentence – the highest form of punishment in the country – for each of the six charges.

In the remaining four, the tribunal gave Zahid different terms of rigorous imprisonment ranging from five to 20 years.

Zahid was acquitted from only one of the charges as the judges found him not guilty in particular in that criminal incident.

Regarding the process of implementing the sentence, the tribunal said as per the International Crimes Tribunal Act, convicted war criminal Zahid alias Khokan Razakar would be be “hanged by the neck till he is dead.”

The tribunal also said all other sentences awarded to the war criminal would naturally get merged into a single sentence of death.

Before yesterday’s verdict in the case against Zahid, 11 other verdicts have been delivered by the two tribunals in the same number of war crimes cases. Most of the convicts in those cases have been widely known in the country since 1971. Some of them were involved in crimes even in independent Bangladesh.

Accounts of their roles as war criminals are also available in many records related to the history of the 1971 war crimes. 

All of those convicted war criminals have gradually become known to the people either because they had been elevated to the stature of top leaders in political parties, or they had been made ministers or given other important government posts by different regimes, or by appearing as presenters in Islamic programmes on television, or by emerging as Islamic sermons.

In comparison, Zahid was just a dwarf because his politics was limited to his locality. As a result, the people from other parts of the country remained more or less in the dark about his Liberation War-time crimes.

Khokon Razakar was 29 years old when he committed the crimes against humanity in 1971. The atrocious incidents that he was charged for by the prosecution, had all taken place between May and August 1971 in Nagarkanda in Faridpur.

Zahid used to maintain close and active association with the Pakistani occupation forces.

The tribunal verdict said the crimes committed by Zahid “were not isolated crimes, rather these were part of organised and planned attack intended to commit the offences of crimes against humanity.”

The verdict said Zahid had directly participated along with his armed accomplices and Pakistani soldiers in the commission of crimes as an armed member of the Razakar force, an auxiliary of the Pakistan army that wanted to annihilate Bangalees to foil the struggle for freedom and birth of independent Bangladesh.   

The verdict also said the Pakistani occupation army organised Razakar, al-Badr (another auxiliary force that worked as a killing squad) for the purpose of their support in implementing its atrocious activities in furtherance of organised plan and policies.

The tribunal in its 109-page verdict, of which the judges read out an abridged version from 11am to 12pm yesterday, said: “Zahid alias Khokon Razakar absconded to evade the process of justice although he is the sitting Mayor of the Nagarkanda Municipality.

“It may be presumed that had the accused not been involved in the crime, he would have certainly appeared before the tribunal to face the trial,” said the verdict.

The state-appointed defence counsel expressed dissatisfaction over the verdict, saying Zahid was not involved with the crimes against humanity.

But he also said Zahid would not be able to appeal to the apex court challenging the tribunal verdict if he did not surrender or be arrested.

The verdict said since Zahid had been absconding, the sentences of “death” and “rigorous imprisonment” have to be executed upon either his arrest or surrender, whichever happened earlier.

Compared to some of the previous verdict pronouncements by the tribunals, the presence of campaigners, journalists and lawyers was much lighter yesterday.

Khokon in Sweden

When contacted over phone, Dr Farhad Ali Khan, public health researcher and scientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I can give you 100% confirmation that Khokon Razakar now lives in his daughter’s place at Bredängsvägen in Stockholm. His daughter Shamsunnahar Begum and son-in-law Mohammad Bodiuzzaman Sheikh are both jobholders.”

Farhad, who is also the vice-president of Sweden unit of the Awami League, said: “A few months ago, when I went to visit the house of an expatriate Bangladeshi in Stockholm, I saw Khokon was also one of the invitees. We expressed our disappointment over the matter to the host.”

He also said: “As far as I know, Khokon Razakar is yet to get a Swedish residence permit. But, one of his sons named Khairuzzaman Lincoln is a Swedish resident who had got his permit recently. Lincoln has also been recently elected as the general secretary of Sweden unit of Jubo Dal [youth front of the BNP].”

Death on six charges

On May 30, 1971, between 8am and 1pm, Zahid and his associate Rajakar members Atahar, Aynal and others, along with Pakistani soldiers, went to the Shahidnagar Kodalia village and plundered and set fire to many houses.

Thereafter, they caught 50-60 people from a nearby hideout. Out of them, 16, including women and children, were shot to death by Zahid and his accomplices through brush firing. Six severely injured people and an infant luckily survived. They also broke the waist of a teenager named Alauddin Sheikh with a rifle ingot under confinement when he refused to go with the Pakistani soldiers. They also killed Afzal Hossain near the Kodalia Koumia Madrasha and Zahid killed Shukur Sheikh on a jute-field with gun shots. After their departure, pro-liberation people buried the dead bodies in three different places.

On May 30, 1971, around 1:30pm, Zahid, along with other Rajakar members Atahar and Aynal and Pakistani soldiers, went to the Ishwardi village. There they plundered and torched many houses and shops. When unarmed villagers where trying to escape their wrath, Zahid and his accomplices shot Salam Matubbar, Srimoti Khatun, Lal Miah Matubbar and Mazed Matubbar to death and caused grievous injuries to a little girl named Fulmoti Begum.

On May 31, 1971, around 7:30am, Zahid, along with armed Rajakars and Pakistani soldiers, went to the Digholia-Ghoramara Beel, situated at the Shahidnagar Kodalia village, to recover the bodies of dead Pakistani soldiers, who got killed on May 29 in a battle with freedom fighters. They set fire to the houses of Pijiruddin, his brother Afaz and their neighbor Sheikh Sadek, in which three people were burnt to death.

Around 10am on the same day, Zahid and company went to the Banagram village and plundered and torched many houses. Later, around 11:30am, they went to the Meherdia village and dragged out Achir Uddin Matubbar from the Meherdia Purbo Para Jame Mosque. Zahid then shot Achir to death. Later, Safizuddin Matubbar was also killed following which they plundered and torched several houses of the villagers.

On May 31, 1971, around 1:30pm, Zahid, along with armed Rajakars and Pakistani soldiers, went to the Goaldi village to exterminate pro-liberation people. Awami League supporters and activists and the Hindus were their main targets. At one point, when the unarmed villagers were running to and fro out of fear, Zahid and Pakistani soldiers shot an old man named Rajendra Nath Roy to death on the jute-field, located in the south of his house.

When Hannan Munshi, along with his parents, younger brothers and baby sister Bulu Khatun, 2, were trying to escape, Zahid and the Pakistani soldiers killed the baby, who was on her mother’s lap. They also ransaked and set fire to many houses in the village.

On May 31, 1971, around 3:30pm, under the leadership of Zahid, a local leader of Jammat-e-Islami and a Razakar, his associate Razakars accompanied by Pakistani soliders, entered the Purapara village and shot Chhoto Khatun alias Noa Chhoto Begum, Shafiuddin Sheikh alias Sheikh Shafi, Manik Sarder, Ratan Sheikh, Jainuddin Matubbar and Abul Barek Mollah and three others to death and also plundered and set fire to many houses.

On June 1,1971, at 6am, Zahid, other Razakars and Pakistani soldiers came to the Baghat and Churiarchar villages. They looted and set fire to many houses including those of Mini Begum, a supporter of Awami-League, and killed her father Malek Matubbar, brother Mosharrof Matubbar, her paternal and maternal grandmothers, and 10-15 unarmed villagers including Amjad Munshi, Raton Matubbar, Ayub Ali and Monju Rani.

20-year jail in one charge

On May 27, between 9am and 11am, Zahid, his elder brother Razakar Zafor and other armed Razakars, entered the house of Jogannath Datta at Bonik Para and confined around 16-17 Hindus. They looted their gold ornaments and cash by threatening to kill them. Zahid destroyed the homestead by setting it on fire. He also torched a nearby temple.

Around 11am, he raped Radha Rani Datta, wife of Thakur Das Datta, who previously took shelter at Bonik Para. At the same time, Khuku Rani Datta, an unmarried daughter of late Holdar Dey, who took shelter in the same village, was also raped by other Razakars. Subsequently, raped victims and their family members were deported to India.

10-year jail in one charge

Some day between May 16 and 28 and between July 18 and 30 in 1971, Zahid and his armed associates, accompanied by an unknown religious teacher, went to the house of Jibon Das at Jonggurdi-Bagutia village under Nagarkanda Police Station. They forcibly converted Jibon and his four brothers to Muslims.

They also converted four Hindu women to Muslims by forcing them to recite a verse from the holy Qur’an, which the religious teacher administered.

Having experienced these, many Hindus, including those converted, fled to India between July 18 and 30. In India, they abandoned their Muslim identities and started living like Hindus again.

5-year jail in two charges

Someday between April 28 and May 6, under Zahid’s leadership, Razakars destroyed the houses of Kanai Lal Mondal and others. They threatened to kill or deport many local Hindus unless they converted to Islam. By issuing such threats, Zahid realised Tk5,000 from Kanai Lal Mondal’s family and Tk10,000 from Jibon Das’s family.

On July 1,1971, around 12:30pm, Razakar commander Zahid, along with armed accomplices, went to the Jonggurodi-Bagutia village and apprehended Kanai Lal Mondal from a hideout and shot him with an intention to kill but left him badly injured on the right elbow. Eventually, the victim was deported to India. 

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