The International Crimes Tribunal’s investigation team has said they are nearly done with the probe into Jamaat-e-Islami Nayeb-e-Ameer Maulana Abdus Sobhan and would soon accuse him officially for crimes against humanity committed in Pabna during the 1971 Liberation War including genocide, abduction, rape and looting.
Investigation officer, Nur Islam, said: “We have found out that Abdus Sobhan was the mastermind behind creation of Razakar and Al Badr [auxiliary support fronts of the Pakistani occupation force] wings in Pabna at the time. He was also the vice-president of Pabna’s Peace Committee and witnesses told us how he played the key role.
“Since he was a fluent Urdu-speaker, he easily managed to get close to the Pakistani army and became a policymaker of the anti-liberation force. He supervised almost all the activities of the Razakars and Al Badrs in the particular area.”
The probe chief added alongside being the key planner of the genocides in the area, Sobhan directly took part in some.
Another source in the probe body, requesting not to be named, said, “Everything is going smooth and we have enough evidence against him. Now, we have to collect some documents to establish his crimes against humanity during the war.”
He added that even though the first tribunal had asked for submission of their final report or a report on the progress of the investigations by July 14, the date was set after the war crimes court approved a prosecution plea to extend the previous April 16 deadline. The source hinted they were trying to submit the report by the new deadline.
The probe allegedly discovered that Sobhan was the acting chief of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Pabna unit in 1971. He was nominated for the by-election that year. He was a vice-president of peace committee and participated in the genocides in the area. He was also accused by the special tribunal in 1972 for collaborating with the occupation force and asked him to appear before it on February 29 of the year.
However, the Jamaat leader fled from the country to Pakistan with his party’s stalwart Ghulam Azam. After 1975, he re-entered Bangladesh and re-established himself in politics. In the 2001 national election, he was elected an MP from the Pabna 5 constituency.
He was picked up on September 20 last year from the eastern part of the Bangabandhu Bridge in Tangail based on a prosecution plea for his arrest to ensure a smooth investigation as it found evidence of his involvement in crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War. After a day, he was produced before the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka.
The investigation officer said witnesses associated Sobhan with the killing of at least eight Hindu men on April 17, 1971 including Sudhir Chondra Chowdhury, Ashok Kumar Saha, Gopal Chondra Chowdhury at Kuchiapara and Shakharipara. The team led by the Jamaat leader torched and looted 20/25 residences and raped women. He was accompanied by Maulana Ishaq, Tegar and many other traitors. In May of the year, at least 400 unarmed civilians were killed at Najirganj-Satbaria union. Sobhan planned the genocide at his residence in the night before.
Alongside pointing out Sobhan’s ties to the genocides at Kuchiapara, Shakharipara and Sujanagar, witnesses described Sobhan as the man who led the occupation forces to the residence of the then Awami League leader Aminuddin.
Nur Alam said: “We have collected all these evidence against Abdus Sobhan and now it is time to sort them out. It is clear; as a vice president of peace committee, Sobhan was the main concerned person of all massacres that happened in Pabna, 1971. Last six months, we have collected evidence and proper witnesses to prove Sobhan’s crimes.”
The tribunal, set up to try the war criminals for crimes against humanity that include genocide, rape, arson and lootings, has already delivered verdicts against Jamaat leaders Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, Abdul Quader Mollah and Delawar Hossain Sayedee. Verdicts are pending in two war crimes cases against former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed. Expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad was also sentenced to death.
In addition, Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami is currently facing trial. The other Jamaat leaders to face trial are Mir Quasem, AKM Yusuf and ATM Azharul Islam.