The Appellate Division on Tuesday sentenced senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla to death, more than seven months after he was handed down life-term by the war crimes tribunal.
Around 10am, the five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, in its judgement pronounced that Quader Molla was found guilty of committing crimes against humanity. He would be hanged till death by the majority decision, said the chief justice while reading out the brief judgement.
This is the first time in the world's history of war crimes cases that a top court has handed down the verdict. In other countries trying war crimes, the special tribunals have separate courts for holding trials and disposing of appeals.
The bench upheld the verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal in four charges, increased his life-term to death penalty in one charge, and gave him life-term for the charge for which Quader Molla had been acquitted.
Quader Molla, known as “Butcher of Mirpur” during the war, was not produced at the court from Kashimpur jail.
Though all the judges “unanimously” found the offences to be true, one of them opposed handing down capital punishment. The chief justice did not specify who favoured the punishment and who did not.
The full text of the verdict has yet to be released.
Other members of the panel were Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik.
The judgement read: “He is sentenced to death by a majority of 4:1 in respect to charge six," which wasthe killing of Hazrat Ali and his family, and rape. "He will be hanged till death. The conviction in respect to charge six is maintained unanimously."
“The appeal filed by the government is found to be maintainable unanimously. This appeal is allowed by majority. The appeal filed by Abdul Quader Molla is dismissed unanimously.”
However, the Appellate Division judgement did not elaborate on the reasons behind increasing the punishment. The details would be known when the top court releases its full verdict.
For charges five and six, Quader Molla had beed sentenced to life imprisonment by the tribunal on February 5.
The apex court awarded Quader Molla life-term for charge four Ghatar Char mass killing), for which he was acquitted by the tribunal. The bench upheld the tribunal’s life-term in charge five (Alubdi village mass killing) and 15 years imprisonment in the other three charges (killing of Pallab and poet Meherunnesa as well as her family and Khandaker Abu Taleb).
The Appellate Division judgement read: “The order of acquittal passed by the International Crimes Tribunal No 2 in respect of charge no four is set aside by majority and the respondent is found guilty of the said charge. He is sentenced to imprisonment for life in that charge. The conviction and sentence passed in respect of charges one, two, three and five are maintained by majority of 4:1.”
Abdur Razzaq, chief counsel of the Jamaat leader, said Quader Molla would file a petition within 30 days of receiving the full verdict so that the Appellate Division could review the death penalty.
However, referring to the constitution, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam stressed that there was no opportunity to lodge a review petition against the Appellate Division verdict as Quader Molla was convicted for crimes against humanity. But he could seek presidential mercy.
Asked about the clemency, Razzaq said: “Quader Molla and his family will decide the matter.”
Since January, the two war crimes tribunals gave judgements in cases against six former and current Jamaat leaders. The government and the defence sides have appealed against the verdicts, except for the one in the case against Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar, who police said escaped abroad before the trial could begin.
Hours after the delivery of the verdict on February 5, hundreds of people thronged Shahbagh intersection demanding capital punishment for Quader Molla, the assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami. Upon a massive public demand, the government amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 to lodge appeals against inadequate punishment given at the tribunal.
The government appealed on March 3 against the ICT verdict in Quader Molla case, seeking death penalty, while the convict appealed the following day for acquittal. The appeals hearing ended on July 23.