The appeal of Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami against his death sentence for war-time atrocities will be judged on Wednesday.
Bangladesh to hang Jamaat-e-Islami chief Nizami for 1971 war crimes
The verdict is the first thing Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha’s four-strong bench will deal on that day, according to the cause list published on the Supreme Court's website.
The other members of the bench are Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Hasan Foez Siddique.
The International Crimes Tribunal ordered hanging of Nizami on Oct 29, 2014 for murders and rapes in Pabna and mass killing of intellectuals during the War of Independence in 1971.
The top appeals court finished hearing the arguments of the two sides on Nizami's appeal against his death sentence on Dec 8 last year.
The Appellate Division set Jan 6 as the date of the verdict.
This is the sixth war crimes case to see the apex court judgment after the institution of the war crimes tribunal in 2010.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters the State is expecting that the capital punishment for Nizami will be upheld.
"Our desire and that of the people will be fulfilled," he said.
Nizami's chief counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain said, "We have argued that the accused in this case cannot be sentenced to death considering the witnesses and evidence.
"So, we hope whatever the verdict, it will not be a death sentence," he said.
"As a lawyer, I will certainly accept the verdict, whatever it is. Then we'll analyse it and if we find our points were not properly addressed, we have the chance to [seek] review," he added.
The 72-year old Jamaat chief is already carrying a death sentence in the 10-truck arms haul case.
He headed the pro-Pakistan Al-Badr militia that had carried out a systematic plan to torture and execute pro-liberation elements during the war.
Nizami was arrested on July 29, 2010 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
On Aug 2, 2010, he was shown arrested for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War. The trial began on May 28, 2012.
In its verdict, the tribunal said four of the crimes committed by Nizami, including those involved with the killings of hundreds of unarmed people and a number of intellectuals, were big crimes against humanity during the War.
Beside these four charges, Nizami was sentenced to life term in prison in four other charges like abductions and murders.
The tribunal acquitted him of eight out of 16 charges the prosecution brought.
Nizami was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, and by this authority, the head of the Al-Badr force which was formed to help the Pakistani occupation.
He had also played key roles in Razakar force and Peace Committee that were formed for the same purpose, the tribunal said.
He appealed against the verdict on Nov 23, 2014. The defence brought 168 points in the appeal to seek his acquittal.
The five appeals verdicts of war crimes cases handed down so far are of Jamaat assistant secretaries general Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, the party's Nayeb-e-Amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee, and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
Sayedee's death sentence was commuted to prison term until death.
The four others' death sentences were upheld and they have been executed.
Jamaat ideologue Ghulam Azam, who led the party during the war, and former BNP minister Abdul Alim died while waiting for the hearing of their appeals.
The ICT found eight of the 16 charges brought against Nizami proved beyond any doubt.
He was sentenced to death for the charges No. 2, 4, 6 and 16.
They are the killing of around 450 people of Baushbarhi and Demra villages at Santhia in Pabna, and the rape of 30 to 40 women, the killing of nine and the rape of one of Karamja village, looting and arson attacks in that village, the murder of 52 of Dhulaurhi village and the orchestration and the killing of intellectuals.
The Jamaat chief was sentenced to life in prison for the four other charges.
They include the killing of Pabna Zila School teacher Kasim Uddin, conspiracy with Pakistan Army officers to commit war crimes and his complicity with the crimes committed at the physical training centre at Dhaka's Mohammadpur, and the killing of Sohrab Ali of Brishalikha village in the presence of his family members.
The other charge proved is the murder of several youths including Shafi Imam Rumi, son of ‘Shaheed Janani’ (Mother of the Martyrs) Jahanara Imam, at the MP Hostel in Dhaka.
From killing grounds to the Cabinet
Born on Mar 31, 1943 in Monmothpur village of Pabna’s Santhia Upazila, Nizami succeeded Jamaat guru Ghulam Azam at the helm in 2000.
Earlier, from 1978 to 1982, he led the party’s Dhaka city unit.
He was given the post of the party's assistant secretary general in 1983 and then promoted to secretary general in 1988.
He got his Kamil degree in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Dhaka’s Madrasa-e-Alia in 1963.
Nizami later graduated from the Dhaka University in 1967.
Inspired by the political preaching of Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, who founded Jamaat-e-Islami Hind at Lahore in 1941, Nizami joined its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha.
He swiftly rose through the ranks of the political outfit, operating in the then West and East Pakistan, and became Chhatra Sangha president in 1966.
Nizami retained the post for the following five years and throughout Bangladesh’s struggle for independence from Pakistan.
After the war, Nizami fled with Ghulam Azam to the UK.
In 1978, the then President Gen Ziaur Rahman repatriated them and brought Jamaat back into politics.
Nizami was elected to Parliament in 1991 and again in 2001 on a BNP-led coalition ticket.
He served as the agriculture minister until 2003 and thereafter as industries minister until 2006.
BD News 24, January 6, 2016