BD delays war crimes verdict on JI leader

BD delays war crimes verdict on JI leader

DHAKA, (SANA): Bangladesh’s war crimes court delayed a verdict on the leader of the largest Islamist party at the last minute Tuesday after doctors said he could not be moved from jail due to ill health.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, who could face the death penalty for alleged war crimes such as genocide during the 1971 independence conflict, was told to stay in bed just hours before the verdict, a prosecutor said.

“Doctors in the jail said that he should not be moved because of abnormally high blood pressure,” prosecutor Mohammad Ali told reporters after the court’s order.The court said it would set a new date for the verdict later.

“Following the submission from the prosecution and defence, we think announcing the verdict in absence of the accused would not be logical,” Judge Enayetur Rahim told a packed courtroom.

A death sentence could trigger violent protests in the country as Nizami’s Jamaat-e-Islami party has a strong grassroots base with hundreds of thousands of activists and supporters.

Similar verdicts including the execution of a senior Jamaat leader last year saw massive unrest nationwide as JI supporters fought with security forces in towns and cities, leaving around 200 people dead.

Police were seen patrolling important places in the capital Dhaka while private television Channel 24 said border guards have been deployed in major cities and towns across the country to prevent any violence.

Nizami, the president of Jamaat-e-Islami, pleaded not guilty and accuses the country’s secular government of using the special war crimes court to target opposition leaders.

Nizami, a minister in the Islamist-allied government of 2001-6 is already on death row after being sentenced to death in January for alleged trafficking weapons and trying to ship them to a rebel group in northeast India.
It is pertinent to mention here that called the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), Bangladesh’s war crimes court is a domestic authority with no international or United Nations oversight.

Rights groups have criticized the court, saying it falls short of international standards.

Since it was created in 2010 by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the ICT has sentenced around a dozen opposition leaders for war crimes.

These include Jamaat’s war-time head and its assistant secretary general who was hanged in December last year.

Defence lawyers say the court is biased and is a “travesty of justice”. They have accused the prosecution of forcing a witness to record false testimony against Nizami.

“We hope Nizami will walk a free man as the evidence against him does not warrant conviction,” defence lawyer Tajul Islam told media.

“The court allowed 26 witnesses for the prosecution and only four for us. And they made conflicting claims about him,” he added.

The latest verdict would be the first since Hasina won general elections in January, which were marred by widespread fraud and a boycott by all opposition parties. Jamaat could not take part after it was banned from the polls.
Ends-SANA-AK-AA
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http://www.sananews.com.pk/english/bd-delays-war-crimes-verdict-on-ji-leader/

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