Bangladesh court upholds BNP leader’s death penalty
July 29 2015 10:43 PM

AFP
Dhaka

Bangladesh’s top court yesterday upheld the death sentence on a top opposition politician for atrocities committed during the 1971 independence war, including the slaughter of around 200 Hindus.
The Supreme Court dismissed Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury’s appeal against the sentence passed by a war crimes tribunal two years ago.
It was the first time a senior leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had been sentenced for his role in the conflict, which saw what was then East Pakistan secede from Islamabad.
The 66-year-old was originally found guilty by the International Crimes Tribunal, a domestic war crimes court, of nine charges including genocide,
torture and rape.
The BNP said it was “shocked and aggrieved” by the ruling on Chowdhury, who served as an adviser to party leader and two-times former premier Khaleda Zia.
“Chowdhury became a victim of political vengeance,” party spokesman Asaduzzaman Ripon told reporters.
The BNP and its Islamist allies have described the war crimes tribunal as a tool for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League to silence its opponents.
Defence lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said Chowdhury’s legal team would seek a review of yesterday’s ruling.
“My father is innocent. One day it will be proved to the people of Bangladesh,” Chowdhury’s son Hummam Q Chowdhury said.
Hundreds of people staged “victory processions” as news of the verdict reached the capital’s Shahbagh Square, where they had been massing since dawn.
Hundreds more joined celebrations in Chittagong, where pro-government groups held victory marches and handed out sweets.
Prosecutors had described Chowdhury, a minister in the previous BNP-led government, as a merciless killer who murdered more than 200 Hindus, including the owner of a well-known herbal medicine
company.
The trial heard that he had dragged owner Nutan Chandra Sinha out of his prayer room and Pakistani soldiers had then shot him.
“Chowdhury then shot him again to make sure he was dead,” prosecutor Zead Al Malum said after the original verdict.
Police stepped up security in Dhaka and in Chowdhury’s home city of Chittagong before the judgement.
Previous verdicts against Islamist politicians have sparked the country’s deadliest political violence since independence, with hundreds killed.
But major protests against the latest verdict were seen as
unlikely.
The BNP was weakened by a major crackdown earlier this year after it launched a three-month nationwide transport blockade to try to topple the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Prosecutors said the execution could be carried out within months unless his case is reviewed or the president grants him clemency.
All previous attempts to review war crimes cases or obtain a presidential reprieve have failed.
Bangladesh has struggled to come to terms with its violent birth.
The government set up the tribunal in 2010, saying trials were needed to heal the wounds of the 1971 war, in which it says three million people were killed and 200,000 women raped.
Independent estimates put the death toll at between 300,000 and 500,000.

My last battle is not yet over: convict
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s upholding of death sentence on him yesterday, firebrand BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury who is lodged in the high-security Kashimpur jail that “my last battle is not yet over”.
The BNP leader reacted after hearing on radio the Supreme Court’s verdict yesterday confirming his death penalty for war crimes in 1971.
“I am no discard, no pushover,” he reportedly told the jailor, insisting his ‘fight for justice’ is far from over.
His son Humman Quader Chowdhury said his lawyer will file a petition for review after receiving the verdict of the appeals bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.
Chowdhury was arrested on December 16, 2010 and has been in Gazipur’s Kashimpur prison since October 23, 2012.
“Jailor Faridur Rahman Reza informed him (SQ Chowdhury) of the Supreme Court verdict at 10am in his cell. But he had already heard of the verdict on radio,” said Kashimpur Jail Superintendent Subrata Kumar Bala.
Chowdhury has been provided by his family with a one-band radio under the jail regulations.
“Salauddin Quader Chowdhury appeared in pleasant mood,” said jailor Reza.
“He said he will fight the last battle; he will go for a review. He is hoping to get justice on review,” Reza said.
Reza quoted Chowdhury as saying, “I have been in politics for the country. I am no discard. Some may be unhappy now for what I have said and so I am facing harassment.”

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