Mohammad Hossain – Bangladesh
On June the 16th, 2015, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Bangladesh upheld the verdict in the case of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, thereby confirming the death sentence imposed by the lower court. I wrote in an article a few days back that taking into consideration the farcical nature of the trials and the fact that previous trials and subsequent executions have been testimony to the intent of the Bangladesh government to execute opposition leaders regardless the quality or quantity of evidence or even lack thereof. As is well known till date, two Islamist opposition leaders have already been executed via a questionable and biased judicial process; namely Abdul Quader Mollah on 12 December, 2013, and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman on 11 April, 2015. And the latest verdict is widely feared to be leading up to the next execution of another key opposition figure in Bangladesh. A summary of the key flaws in his case would reveal how unjust the verdict was.
War Crimes verdict:
On his verdict which had been delivered on July 17th, 2013 and where the tribunal prosecution had brought seven charges against him, Mujahid had been acquitted on two charges, given the death penalty on three charges, and given jail terms for the other two charges. In the appeal verdict, the death penalty against veteran Jamaat leader was upheld on the charge of “killing intellectuals in 1971”. However, his death penalty on earlier charges concerning alleged mass killing of Hindu people in Faridpur on May 13, 1971 was commuted to life imprisonment, while Mujahid was acquitted of the death penalty in the charge of the alleged murder of journalist Seraj Uddin. Meanwhile, the Apellate Division (AD) upheld Mujahid’s conviction in four charges along with the death sentence for “killing intellectuals”.
A study of the tribunal verdict against Mujahid brings into focus the outlandish nature of the charges against him which had earned him the death sentence.
One of the charges includes the abduction and murder of the journalist Seraj Uddin Hossain. In what was clear testimony that nullified the charge, it was gleaned that Sahin Reza Nur, son of Seraj Uddin had himself stated in court that after the abduction of his father, he had filed a case and given witness under the Collaborator Act in 1972/73 at the Ramna police station. At the time there had been only one person accused whose name was Khalil. Khalil had given a confessional statement and in the ensuing trial he was awarded a life time sentence in prison. The case, which had been filed right after the incident, was closed at the time in court and it is a well known fact that there is no such opportunity to re-open a case on which judgment has already been passed. Furthermore, Sahin Reza Nur clearly stated that his family members had previously written in memory of slain journalist Seraj Uddin Hossain‘s abduction and murder, but Mujahid’s name had come up nowhere in past writings. It was only a result of either sheer chance or cold-blooded intent to murder that Mujahid’s name had come up 44 years after the event.
On the 7th charge, where Mujahid had been given the death sentence in the alleged Bakchor massacre in Faridpur district had initially not even been included in the main formal charge sheet or the primary accusation sheet. Although the tribunal had initially ignored taking into consideration this allegation, it was most surprisingly included later and Ali Ahsan Mujahid had actually been sentenced to death on this very specific charge, before being commuted to life imprisonment in the Appeal division. Apart from the procedure of charge inclusion being something of a serious violation of tribunal law, it is fact that a supposed “genocide” of such large magnitude is surprisingly not described in any of the liberation war history books involving Faridpur district. Even the book “Muktijodde Faridpur” supplied by the prosecution at the tribunal didn’t mention anything about the incident. Additionally, the martyr list of Faridpur does not contain any relevant names. Neither was any monument nor sign found about the martyrs of the abovementioned incident at the Bakchor village. Despite all this, the Appeal division still considered life imprisonment.
In the final allegation which was used to sentence Mujahid to death, both in the tribunal and in th Appeal division, it was mentioned that he was involved with ‘intellectual killing’ at the Mohammadpur Physical Training institute. This was despite the fact that throughout the whole charge sheet not a single time it was mentioned how and where Mujahid had killed and abducted the intellectuals. No dates were mentioned, and neither have any family members of the intellectuals who were the alleged victims of physical training institute incident appeared at the tribunal to give witness against Mujahid. The only witness of the incident who came to the court iterated that neither he nor his father had given any statement anywhere before regarding the fact that they knew Mujahid during 1971 or that they saw him at that time or saw him coming to the institution premises.
Reaction to verdict:
The unjust nature of the verdict has been protested by the Jamaat-e-Islami and rights groups. Immediately after the verdict, the Islamist party called for a nationwide protest programme in which the law enforcement agencies arrested more than two 200 people in a nationwide drive, a bulk of who were Jamaat-e-Islami activists.
The defence team has decided to file a review petition in the Appellate Division seeking review of its verdict that had upheld his death sentence. According to one lawyer of the defence team, the petition will be filed in 15 days after getting the copy of the full judgment.
To highlight the outlandish nature of the charge against which Mujahid was sentenced to death in his trial, his son Ali Ahmad Mabrur, when interviewed by the media, simply asked, “Which intellectual did my father kill?”
Mujahid’s reaction to his verdict was equally strong when he highlighted that he was a victim of political hostilities, “I am not the least bit perturbed at the punishment handed down to me for my political enmity with this government. Knowing that Allah is my witness, I categorically state that all allegations and charges against me are one hundred percent false and fabricated. I was not involved with any crimes whatsoever in 1971. It is only due to my involvement with the Islamic movement that I am being charged with such false allegations after so many years.”
Looking at all the above, it can only be surmised that the government of Bangladesh is bent upon the execution of another political opposition figure in the near future. The fact that such a move is blatantly wrong and unjust does not need any reiteration. In the case of Mujahid, as was the case of previous opposition leaders hanged, the injustice is doubled, due to the fact that not only has justice escaped those hanged, but that justice has escaped the actual perpetrators of the heinous crimes against humanity in 1971. As history has proved time and again, such moves are not wise and only serve to exacerbate grievances and open new wounds. It is thus in the interest of all that the present trial process be immediately halted, focusing instead ensuring justice while keeping fundamental rights intact and globally accepted fair trial standards the true standards, keeping in mind that, at the end of the day, reconciliation is needed, not seeds for more discord.
*The writer is a Blogger and student of contemporary Islamic history at International Islamic
University of MalaysiaLast Mod: 29 Haziran 2015, 14:28