Bangladesh Supreme Court will pronounce the final verdict on May 5 on the death sentence it handed down to chief of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami, deciding his fate over crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
“The decision will be pronounced on May 5,” Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha said today, wrapping up the hearing on the 72-year-old death row convict’s review petition at the four-member bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. During the over three-hour review hearing, the court heard both attorney general Mahbubey Alam and Nizami’s chief counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain.
In another development, Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) in the capital handed down death penalty to four 1971 war criminals and “imprisonment until death” to another for carrying out atrocities in northern Kishorganj during the Liberation War, siding with the Pakistani troops.
Only one of the convicts ? former members of Razakar Bahini, a Bengali-manned auxiliary force of the Pakistan army in 1971 – faced the trial in person while the rest, including a former Bengali captain of the Pakistani force, were tried in absentia. Witnesses said the three-member special tribunal led by Justice Anwarul Haque sentenced one of the fugitives the imprisonment until death.
In the apex court, Nizami’s chief counsels appealed to the court to reduce his client’s punishment, saying despite being the then chief of the notorious Al-Badr militia force and of Jamaat’s student wing, he was not “directly involved” in mass murders, arsons and rapes.
Attorney general Alam opposed the argument, saying Jamaat had sided with Pakistani troops in carrying out the atrocities during the Liberation War and being the chief of the Al-Badr militia force manned by the party activists, Nizami could not avoid the responsibility.
Legal experts said if the apex court upheld its January 6 judgment confirming Nizami’s capital punishment, the top leader of Bangladesh’s biggest Islamist party would be left with the only option to seek presidential mercy.
President Abdul Hamid, however, has earlier rejected two such prayers by 1971 war crimes convicts, including Nizami’s top aide then, who were subsequently executed late last year.
ICT-BD originally sentenced Nizami to death on October 29, 2014 and after an appeal hearing, the apex court in its January judgment found the punishment appropriate for him.
The prison authorities served Nizami the death warrant on March 16 as the apex court’s decision reached them in writing through the ICT-BD following which the Jamaat chief preferred to seek review of the Supreme Court judgment. Nizami was a minister in the past BNP-led four-party alliance government with Jamaat as its crucial ally.