By S. Binodkumar Singh
Apr 27, 2015
On April 11, 2015, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) Senior Assistant Secretary General Mohammed Kamaruzzaman (63), the third most senior figure in the JeI, was hanged at 10:30pm at Dhaka Central Jail, for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971. Kamaruzzaman had been arrested on July 13, 2010, and indicted on June 4, 2012, on seven charges.
On May 9, 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 (ICT-2) found him guilty on five charges, of which he was sentenced to death in two; to life imprisonment in another two; and to 10 years’ imprisonment in one charge. He was awarded the death penalty on the charge that, under his direction, members of Al-Badr and Razakar forces murdered 164 unarmed civilians and raped many women, in association with Pakistani troops, in the Sohagpur village of Nalitabari upazila (sub-District) in Sherpur District on July 25, 1971; and on his instructions, collaborators took Golam Mostafa and Abul Kasem of Gridda Narayanpur village in Sherpur District to an Al-Badr camp and gunned them down on August 23, 1971. The tribunal awarded him a single sentence of life imprisonment for two offences: on June 29, 1971, under the leadership of Kamaruzzaman, a group of Al-Badr members abducted Badiuzzaman of Ramnagar village under Jhenaigati upazila in Sherpur District and shot him dead the following day; and on November 16, 1971, Kamaruzzaman, accompanied by 15 to 20 armed Al-Badr members, abducted Tepa Mia and his elder son Zahurul Islam Dara from Golapjan Road in Mymensingh District and, the next morning, the father and son, along with five others, were lined up and shot on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The tribunal awarded him 10 years in prison for inflicting inhumane torture on pro-liberation intellectual Syed Abdul Hannan, the then principal of Sherpur College, by compelling him to walk naked through the town under constant whipping in mid-May, 1971.
Kamaruzzaman is the second JeI leader to be hanged for atrocities during the 1971 war. Earlier, in the first-ever execution in a war crimes case, JeI Assistant Secretary Abdul Quader Mollah (65), who had earned the nickname ‘Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur)’, was hanged on December 12, 2013, at Dhaka Central Jail.
Thus far, the War Crimes (WC) Trials, which began on March 25, 2010, have indicted 27 leaders, including 13 from JeI, six from the Muslim League (ML), four from Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and two each from Jatiya Party (JP) and Nizam-e-Islami. Verdicts against 18 of them have already been delivered – 14 were awarded the death penalty, while the remaining four received life sentences. Out of the 14 who received the death sentence, two have already been executed, while eight cases are currently pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC). The latter category includes JeI Ameer (Chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami; JeI Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed; JeI central executive committee member Mir Quasem Ali; JeI Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam; JeI Nayeb-e-Ameer (Deputy Chief) Abdus Subhan; Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) standing committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury; Mobarak Hossain, former AL general secretary of Mogra union and a rukon (union member) of the JeI and commander of the Razakar force; and former State Minister of HM Ershad's Government Syed Mohammad Qaisar. The remaining four death penalties are in absentia, and include Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar, former Al-Badr leader and JeI member; Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman Khan alias Nayeb Ali and Chowdhury Mueenuddin, former Al-Badr leaders and JeI members; and Zahid Hossain Khokon alias Khokon, vice-president of BNP's Nagarkanda unit and a Razakar commander of Faridpur District. Out of four persons who were awarded life sentences, two persons have already died serving their sentence – former JeI Ameer Ghulam Azam (91), who died on October 23, 2014; and former BNP minister Abdul Alim (83), who died on August 30, 2014. JeI Nayeb-e-Ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee (74) is lodged in Kashimpur Central jail of Gazipur District and former Jatiya Party (JP) Member of Parliament (MP) Abdul Jabbar (82) was sentenced in absentia.
Minutes after Kamaruzzaman was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail, JeI Acting Ameer Moqbul Ahmed, in a statement on April 11, 2015, announced a shutdown programme across the country. On April 12, JeI-ICS cadres vandalized 30 vehicles, torched several others and blasted 20 crude bombs in Dhaka city. On April 13, two ICS cadres were killed and six civilians were injured in separate incidents of violence. This has become the established pattern of response to every final judgment and execution, each of which has been violently opposed by the BNP-JeI-ICS combine on the streets across the country. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 418 persons have been killed in such violence since the delivery of the first verdict by the ICT-2 against JeI leader Maulana Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar on January 21, 2013 (data till April 26, 2015). These numbers include the killing of three persons, including a local leader of JeI and two ICS cadres, after Kamaruzzaman’s hanging.
Significantly, on January 5, 2015, Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of BNP, had announced a countrywide indefinite blockade of roads, rail and waterways, as she was confined to her Gulshan office in Dhaka city, to prevent her spearheading anti-Government protests as part of the BNP-led 20-party alliance’s efforts to topple Prime Minister Hasina’s Government. Enveloping shut-downs backed by street violence have a long tradition in Bangladesh, irrespective of the party in power. The latest cycle of sporadic disruptions has, however, failed to move the Hasina-led Government, despite their significant economic impact. According to the World Bank (WB), as disclosed at the launch of the Bangladesh Development Update 2015, on April 1, 2015, Bangladesh suffered a financial loss of around USD 2.2 billion between January and March 2015, due to political turmoil and disruptions.
The latest execution, like the earlier verdicts and their implementation, has received overwhelming support across Bangladesh. Soon after Kamaruzzaman’s execution, celebrations by activists of the Gonojagoron Mancha (People's Resurgence Platform) broke out in Dhaka city’s Shahbagh area. Imran H. Sarker, President of the Mancha declared, “Hanging of war criminal [Mohammad] Kamaruzzaman is indeed justified. Capital punishment is the only way to punish a criminal like him who committed so grave crime against humanity (sic).” Likewise, freedom fighter and President of the Sanmilita Sanskrit Jote, a platform of progressive cultural groups, Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu, in his immediate reaction after the execution, observed, “I think we've got justice. As a freedom fighter, I express my satisfaction. I'm happy. It is a matter of satisfaction for us. Today, we have heaved a sigh of relief.” Gonojagoron Mancha formed on February 5, 2013, by thousands of protestors at Shahbagh in Dhaka city has reportedly organized demonstrations of between 100,000 and 500,000 supporters. After the execution of Kamaruzzaman, supporters of the sentence, including Gonojagoron Mancha, were soon out hailing the execution. Across the country, there were several marches calling for the completion of other war crimes cases. Earlier, a poll conducted by the newspaper Prothom Alo in September 2013 had found that 80 per cent of respondents had agreed that those who had committed War Crimes should be tried and punished with only 19 percent against it.
Mass support, with the exception of committed cadres of the BNP-JeI-ICS combine, has enabled the Sheikh Hasina Wajed regime to weather the storm of violent street protests and to withstand the orchestrated international pressure against the War Crimes Trials’ process. Nevertheless, the significant support base of the radical Islamist formations in the country, as well as of the BNP which allies with them, retains the potential to cause extreme harm within the country, and it will require both an iron will and political sagacity to carry the War Crimes Trials process to its logical conclusion, and to sustain the dramatic improvements that Bangladesh has registered in its development profile over recent years , even as the global tide of a rising Islamist extremism is effectively resisted and neutralized within the country.
Source: South Asia Intelligence Review