Supreme Court seals Salauddin Quader’s fate, confirms death penalty for BNP leader’s war crimes

War-time terror of Chittagong Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will have to hang after the Supreme Court in the final verdict confirmed the death penalty of the war crimes tribunal.

Suliman NiloyMohiuddin Faruq and bdnews24.com
Published : 29 July 2015, 03:09 AM
Updated : 30 July 2015, 06:28 AM

The four-member appeals bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the verdict on his appeal against the maximum punishment just after 9am on Wednesday.

The judgment was greeted with huge relief in and outside the courtroom.

Many had their doubts about the death sentence being upheld following a report in a foreign media over an alleged meeting between Chowdhury’s family and the chief justice.

The three other judges of the bench were Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Hasan Foez Siddique.

The war crimes tribunal had found Chowdhury guilty in nine out of the 23 charges levelled against him by the prosecution.

Wednesday’s verdict by the apex court acquitted him of one of the nine charges and upheld the sentences by the tribunal in the remaining eight charges.

He was sentenced to death over four charges and jailed for different terms over the others.

The top court’s verdict upheld the death penalty awarded by the war crimes tribunal in charges 3, 5, 6 and 8 that included murder, genocide and abduction for murder.

The 20-year prison sentence given by the tribunal for charges 2 and 4 were also upheld.

The former BNP MP, however, was acquitted of charge 7, for which the tribunal had ordered a 20-year prison term.

The tribunal’s verdict of five-year prison terms for charges 17 and 18 was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

Ever at the centre of controversy with his remarks and actions, Chowdhury is the first BNP leader to be walking the gallows for atrocities during the 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan.

He is the second former minister to have the death sentence upheld after Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid.

During the trial, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's role in the large-scale killing of Hindus and Awami League activists during the 1971 Liberation War was recounted in some detail.

He is the eldest son of the former Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chwodhury.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 sentenced him to death on Oct 1, 2013, for murdering Kundeshwari Oushadhalaya owner Nutan Chandra Singha, genocide of Hindus at Sultanpur and Unsattar Parha, and abduction and murder of a Hathazari Awami League leader and his son Sheikh Alamgir.

Chowdhury’s party BNP said it was ‘surprised and frustrated’ over the verdict. 

Spokesperson Asaduzzaman Ripon termed the verdict ‘unfair’, but announced no new agitation to protest against it.

“We believe Salauddin Quader has been denied justice,” he said.

Chowdhury is the fifth to get a verdict on the appeal against the tribunal’s judgment.

Before the ICT verdict, his family alleged that it was leaked.

Police, however, found his family’s involvement in the leak.

His wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury, son Hummam Quader Chowdhury, his lawyer Fakhrul Islam, Mehedi Hasan, a staff to lawyer Islam and International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) employees Nayan Ali and Faruk Hossain were accused in the case over the leak.

Hearing the appeal verdict on radio at Kashimpur Jail in Gazipur, Chowdhury told a jailor that his 'fight for justice' was far from over.

"I am no discard, no pushover," he said.

His son Hummam said his father was innocent.

“I hope one day it will be proved that my father Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was innocent,” he added.

Defence lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain vented his ‘frustration’ over the verdict and said they would file a review petition after getting the copy of the full verdict.

Law Minister Anisul Huq welcomed the Supreme Court verdict and hoped it would remain unaltered even after a review.
 
“A review generally looks for procedural flaws. One in a hundred review pleas yields flaws,” he told journalists.

“A review is unlikely to change the main sentence since the Appellate Division has not found any loopholes in the tribunal’s verdict,” he said.

Prosecution’s first witness Professor Anisuzzaman, who was at the Chittagong University during the war, said the nation got ‘justice’.

Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker said the verdict frustrated the war criminals’ ‘plot’.

Before the verdict, Sarker had expressed concern over the confirmation of the death sentence, citing media reports that a family member of Chowdhury met the chief justice.

The Supreme Court, alongside the verdict, issued a contempt rule against Daily Janakantha Executive Editor Swedesh Roy and Editor Mohammad Atikullah Khan for Roy’s article that questioned the conduct of the judges hearing Chowdhury’s case.

The court also asked Attorney General Mahbubey Alam to gather detailed information on Ganajagaran Mancha’s Sarker for making remarks on sub-judice matters.

To the gallows

The Supreme Court will now publish the full verdict and send it to the tribunal, which will then issue the death warrant.

After getting the warrant, the jail authorities will read it out to Chowdhury.

The defence will get the chance to file a review petition within 15 days from the publication of the full verdict.

The court will agree to rethink the ruling only if it doubts the verdict’s ‘reliability’ or if there are chances of a miscarriage of justice.

But the review will never be equated to an appeal, the court said in the review verdict of Jamaat’s Abdul Quader Molla.

Once the review petition is resolved and the death sentence is upheld, the war crimes convict will have the opportunity to seek mercy from the president and meet family members.

If Chowdhury is denied pardon or if he declines to appeal for his life, the government will execute the convict through the jail authorities.

This procedure was followed during the execution of Jamaat leaders Abdul Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher