Ex-ruling party official gets death penalty in Bangladesh

Mobarak Hossain found guilty of mass murder and torture by war crimes trial
Ex-ruling party official gets death penalty in Bangladesh

A man re-enacts an independence war scene during a rally demanding the death sentence for war criminals in Dhaka (Photo by Rock Ronald Rozario)

A tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced to death a former member of the ruling Awami League Party for war crimes during the country’s 1971 liberation struggle with Pakistan.

The International War Crimes Tribunal-1, one of two domestic war crimes courts prosecuting people for wartime abuses, found Mobarak Hossain, 64, guilty of mass murder, torture and abduction.

Hossain supported Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest hardline Islamic party during the war, heading a ruthless Islamist militia that helped the Pakistan army massacre hundreds of people during the nine-month war.

He later joined the Awami League, the party at the forefront of the independence movement, but was expelled in 2012 after being charged with war crimes.

Hossain became the 14th politician convicted of war crimes since the Awami League government established the tribunals in 2010 and the first top official with connections to the ruling party.

State officials welcomed yesterday’s verdict.

“We are glad to see the court hand down [the] death penalty … he deserved this punishment,” said Shahidur Rahman, a state prosecutor.

“He was a commander of the Razakars Islamic militia and responsible for killing hundreds of people for supporting freedom fighters,” he added.

Defense lawyers branded the verdict “wrong and misguided”.

“Justice has not been done in this case because the court has taken the decision on the basis of some false witnesses which were not enough to prove him guilty,” said Tajul Islam, a defense lawyer.

“Once we get a copy of the judgment we will appeal against this verdict in the Supreme Court,” he added.

Anti-government elements of the media have alleged that Hossain’s death sentence was a face-saving ploy by the government to show the nation and the international community that the tribunals are independent and neutral.

International rights groups including Human Rights Watch have criticized the tribunals, saying the procedures they employ do not meet international standards.

The Awami League claims the trials are necessary for national healing, however Jamaat and it’s ally the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the tribunal is a tool for targeting the ruling administration’s political opponents.

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister Anisul Haque insisted Monday that Mobarak’s trial was fair and due process had been followed.

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“Due legal procedures have been followed in the trial and the court has acted fairly. The nation has trust in the tribunal and in us,” he told reporters outside the court.

In 1971, the eastern section of Pakistan broke away to become an independent Bangladesh after a war between the Pakistan army and Bangladeshi Liberation Forces.

The Bangladesh government says three million people were killed and up to 300,000 women raped during the independence war.

Independent researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people died.

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