Dhaka, Aug 30: Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Tuesday (Aug 30) upheld the death sentence it handed down to senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader and key financier Mir Quasem Ali for committing war crimes during the country's 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.
The five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha pronounced a single-word judgement in the court room. "Rejected," said top judge, who is the first Hindu to occupy the post in the Muslim-majority country, about 64-year-old Ali's appeal. Ali is considered as the key-financier of Jamaat, which was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan.
In his brief comments after the verdict, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told reporters that Ali could now seek presidential clemency as his last resort to save himself from the gallows. "He now could be (sent) to (the) gallows anytime if he does not seek clemency or his mercy petition is rejected," Alam said. Ali's lawyers were not immediately available for comments.
The decision paves the way for Ali's execution unless he is pardoned by the president. Ali, also a media doyen, filed the review petition after the apex court published its full verdict and the International Crimes Tribunal issued the death warrant against him on June 6. He owns several business houses and media outlets including a now suspended TV channel and is a central executive council member of Jamaat-e-Islami. He was convicted of running a militia torture cell, Al Badr, that carried out killings of several people.
Three million people were said to have been massacred in the war by the Pakistani army and their local collaborators. Prosecution lawyers had earlier said Ali had exhausted all efforts to influence his trial on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War. They had said that Ali made a USD 25 million deal with US lobby firm Cassidy and Associates for engaging with the governments of the United States and Bangladesh to protect "his interest".
During the appeal hearing against his death sentence the state-side submitted to the court a receipt issued by the US lobby firm for what it said "professional service".
The evidence suggested that in March, 2014, another deal worth of USD 50,000 was struck with the same lobby firm on Ali's behalf for "condemning" the actions of the International Crimes Tribunal-Bangladesh. Under the deal, the firm was asked to do everything possible to get incorporated an anti-ICT-BD legislative language in the House/Senate Department.
Four people, including three Jamaat leaders and one BNP stalwart have been hanged so far since the war crimes trial process began six years ago while two others died in prison of old age.