IHRC is deeply concerned by reports from Bangladesh that judges are seeking to expedite the appeal of Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami against his conviction for crimes against humanity during the country’s liberation war against Pakistan in 1971.
Mr Nizami, aged 71, was tried on 16 counts of war crimes including murder, rape, looting, abetment and the massacre of Bengali intellectuals during the country’s 1971 liberation war. He had already been convicted of smuggling arms to Assamese insurgents and sentenced to death in January this year.
Mr Nizami, who served as a highly respected member of parliament between 1991-1996, has denied the charges saying that they are politically motivated. Nizami became the second opposition leader to be sentenced to death in what international human rights groups have universally condemnded as a withchunt by the ruling Awami League against its political rivals.
It is feared that the appeal court will reject Nizami’s appeal before it breaks for the mid December vacation.
Human rights organisations and opposition groups have condemned the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up in 2010 by the ruling Awami League to investigate atrocities carried out during the 1971 war for failing to meet international standards of justice. They have accused the ruling Awami League of using the ICT as a tool with which to weaken its political opponents. Almost the entire leadership of the Jamaat-e-Islami currently stands accused of war crimes.
The ICT has been beset with allegations of irregularities. Mr Nizami and his supporters have accused judges and the prosecution of conspiring with each other to secure a conviction through secret liaisons, failing to allow the defence enough time to prepare its case.
They have also criticised the ICT for intimidating witnesses, being involved in the disappearance of a key witness, and in the case of Abdul Kader Mullah, retrospectively changing the law to send him to the gallows after an initial life imprisonment sentence had failed to satisfy popular demands.
The Awami League has also systematically undermined the independence of the country’s judiciary since it came to power in 2008, packing the upper courts with supportive judges.
Jamaat-e-Islaami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was hanged along with BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for war crimes late last month. Another former leader of the popular Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Kader Mullah was hanged in December 2013 after being found guilty of war crimes during the 1971 conflict.
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