War-time terror Salauddin Quader Chy to die

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will hang for genocide and deadly torture of Hindus and Awami League supporters in Chittagong when the Bengalees sought to establish their own independent state of Bangladesh in 1971.

Biswadip Dasand Gazi Nasiruddinbdnews24.com
Published : 1 Oct 2013, 07:23 AM
Updated : 2 Oct 2013, 03:24 AM

A war-crimes court, trying those accused of horrendous crimes and set up to provide the intended closure to the civil-war turmoil in East Pakistan during the bloody struggle to secede from Pakistan, found him guilty on Tuesday of crimes against humanity.

A flamboyant showman now grizzled at 64, the son of Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chowdhury was convicted of unleashing a reign of terror that convulsed Raozan, Boalkhali, Ragunia, Hathazari, Boalkhali and Chittagong City during the war and cast a dark, long shadow on survivors that reached across the years.

Among the horrific crimes was his running a torture cell with his father in their house.

He and scores of local collaborators of Pakistani rulers were complicit in the spate of atrocities, killing and forcing millions to flee to India to escape the carnage.

Abduction, grabbing of Hindu households and forcing the people of this community to leave the country were the hallmarks of his campaign, according to the gruesome details revealed at the trial.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir delivered the judgment at around 1:10pm on Tuesday in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and observers.

"We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind," he said.

The BNP has called general strikes in Chittagong and Rangamati districts for Wednesday protesting his death sentence. But the main opposition will give its formal reaction at a press briefing on Wednesday.

A key BNP figure, Salauddin Quader, who joined politics through Muslim League which collaborated with the Pakistani Army during the war, is the first sitting MP to be convicted of war crimes.

The verdict said the prosecution had proved his involvement in nine of the 23 charges of crimes beyond reasonable doubt.

He was given capital punishment for killing Kundeshwari Oushadhalaya owner and philanthropist Nutan Chandra Singha, genocide of Hindus at Sultanpur and Unsattar Parha and abducting and murdering a Hathazari Awami League leader and his son Sheikh Alamgir.

The verdict depicted how Salauddin Quader had led Pakistani Army to murder, loot during 1971 and how he had abducted freedom fighters and supporters of independence, took them to his hilltop residence at Goods Hill in Chittagong and tortured them.

The judge pronounced the ‘hang until death’ order for the maverick politician weeks after anonymous calls threatening that Bangladesh will go up in flames if he was given death penalty.

The sentence was cheered by freedom fighters and pro-liberation forces outside the tribunal, by those gathered at Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha and the general public in different areas including Chittagong.

They demanded quick execution of the verdict, which came after over four decades after the crimes had been committed.

The tribunal prosecution expressed satisfaction over the judgment, but the defence, clearly unhappy, said they would challenge it in the higher court.

Meanwhile, Salauddin Quader’s family expressed displeasure alleging the verdict had been ‘leaked’ a day before on the internet. They also said they would appeal against the verdict.

The tribunal is looking into the allegations of the verdict being leaked reportedly from the law ministry.

Death for four charges

Justice ATM Fazle Kabir started reading out the verdict at 10:43am after Salauddin Quader was brought to the court.

The two other judges of the first war crimes tribunal – Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque – also read out two parts of a summary of the 172-page verdict. At the end, Justice Kabir pronounced the punishment at 1:10pm.

The verdict said the prosecution had successfully proved nine of the 23 charges framed against the BNP policymaker, from 2 to 8, 17 and 18.

The six-time MP from Chittagong was given the capital punishment for each of four other charges — 3, 5, 6 and 8 — that include murder, genocide and murder after abduction.

The BNP Standing Committee member was also given 20 years in prison for three charges – 2, 4, and 7 - each which include murder, complicity in genocide, loot, arson and deportation; and five years each for another two charges – 17 and 18, which include abduction and torture.

But the prosecution failed to prove charges 1, 10, 11, 12, 14, 19, 20 and 23.

Remaining six charges (9, 13, 15, 16, 21 and 22) were not evaluated as the prosecution failed to produce any witnesses to substantiate them.

Insolent Salauddin

Once a seemingly untouchable ‘big man’ – he stepped into the limelight many times for his ‘indecent’ and controversial remarks- the BNP stalwart, donning white Panjabi and Pajamas, was seen talking continuously from the dock as the verdict was being read out on Tuesday.

His wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury, two sons Faiyaz Quader Chowdhury and Hummam Quader Chowdhury and daughter Farzin Quader Chowdhury were also present at the courtroom.

The BNP leader, known for his theatrics and antics, several times enlivened proceedings, mostly for the worse, sometimes shouting even at the judges.

He even went so far as to address Justice Nizamul Huq, former Chairman of the tribunal, as ‘Mr Nizamul Huq’ when the presiding judge addressed him with a harsh ‘Mr Chowdhury’ trying to caution him.

That outburst triggered an order barring the BNP man from courtroom for his unruly behaviour.

His attitude was the same on Tuesday.

When reading out a part of the verdict, Justice Anwarul Haque had said, “He was elected MP for five times.”

Salauddin reacted by standing up in the dock. “Five, five? No, six times,” the Chittagong-2 MP told the judge, reminding him of his being elected in the short-lived 1996 Parliament.

At around 11:45am, Salauddin Quader and his lawyer Tajul Islam talked about the verdict already being available online.

He stood up in the dock at 11:48am and said, “No need to read all these. All these were available online over the past two days.”

The judge paused reading the judgement for a few moments.

“Read the rest that you could not complete reading yet. Finish it fast, let’s go home,” said Salauddin with a grin.

At one point, he started making indecent remarks towards the judge.

Justice Fazle Kabir observed that Salauddin Quader deviated from the norm of addressing High Court judges as ‘Justice’ or ‘My lord’ but addressed them by their surname or merely as ‘Mr Chairman’.

Justice Kabir said his ‘unruly’ behaviour were not in keeping with his position as a sitting MP, especially someone who had been elected six times.

The judge also noted that the BNP leader at times would not even stand up to show respect to the judges when they left.

Salauddin Quader protested with a booming, “Never!”

The judge said, “Needless to say that this will not affect the judgement in any way.”

Earlier, during the trial he had said that he was born in a Chittagonian Muslim family, not in a Bengali family. He had said his mother tongue was Chatgaian [Chittagong’s local language], not Bangla.

While defending himself on June 17, he had said, “If I am not hanged, no one will be hanged,” meaning that if anyone were to hang it would have to be him first.

“Don’t send me to a Kolkata prison,” he had also said once, feigning imploration at the war crimes tribunal indicating the government’s close ties to India.

The BNP – which did not exist at the time of the war – earlier had described his trial as nothing but a political vendetta by the Awami League that led the nation to freedom.

This is the seventh verdict in similar cases to come over war crimes. The war crimes tribunals of Bangladesh had convicted six former and current leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami in as many previous verdicts.

The Jamaat had called nationwide general strikes for the day before and the day of the verdict in every case, but the main opposition BNP has kept mum regarding the case and verdict of Salauddin Quader.

Reactions

As Justice Kabir moved on to announce the sentence, a lull descended in the packed court.

The silence was broken only after the presiding judge cited the charges for which the defendant was to hang, with the press pack elbowing each other to get out of the courtroom to break the story.

In his immediate reaction, Salauddin Quader’s lawyer Ahsanul Haque Hena said they would challenge the death penalty in the Supreme Court.

“I know that we won’t get justice,” said Salauddin’s wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury. “But we will go though the entire process. We will file an appeal and see who are there to judge it.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, “The mass murder of the Hindu community and other people by SQ Chowdhury was heinous. The judgment is just.”

Tribunal prosecutor Zead-AL-Malum said, “We will decide future steps after evaluating the verdict. We’ll decide about appeal about the charges of murder and torture which were not proved.”

However, BNP-affiliated lawyers’ platform, Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum, at a press briefing rejected the verdict.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Advisor Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said, "Everyone related with the trial will be tried some day on this soil."

"We are shocked at the verdict," the party's Standing Committee member Moudud Ahmed said to reporters.

He hoped Salauddin Quader would be proved innocent in the Supreme Court after the appeal.

Before his arrest, Salauddin Quader had openly criticised Moudud over ways to foil government initiative when Khaleda was evicted from Dhaka Cantonment residence.

Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbub-Ul Alam Hanif said the verdict had fulfilled the expectations of the nation. “This judgment will remain an instance for establishing the rule of law. We hope the tribunals will be able to give verdict according to people’s expectations against other accused also,” he said.

Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon said that the nation had been expecting this verdict for long.

President of the Communist Party of Bangladesh Mujahidul Islam Selim said, “This is a fair justice. The nation has long been waiting for this verdict. We hope the verdict will be implemented immediately.”

Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, also the JaSaD President, asked the BNP chief to welcome the verdict. Addressing her, he said, “No one should take the sides with the war criminals. No steps should also be taken to protect them or foil the trial.”

Stain removed

In the mean time, ruling Awami League’s Raozan unit took out celebratory procession at the Upazila, Salauddin Quader’s ancestral home, after the verdict was pronounced. Sweets were distributed.

Raozan unit President Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury said the people there were waiting for this verdict. “Justice has been served. People of Raozan are proud because it is the birthplace of 'Masterda' Surya Sen, but it was also tainted as the birthplace of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury. The verdict has removed the stain.”

Prafulla Ranjan Singha, son of Kundeshwari Oushadhalaya owner Nutan Chandra Singha who was killed by Salauddin Quaderin 1971, said, “This is a relief that my father’s killer got his punishment after 42 years. We now just want the verdict to be executed.”

M Salimullah, the second witness in this case who was tortured at Salauddin Quader’s Goods Hill residence, said, “He committed genocide and rape at Raozan and in the [Chittagong] city in 1971. He deserved the death penalty.”

He demanded fast execution of the verdict. “This will give peace to those who were killed here by the Pakistani Army with his help during the war.”

Freedom fighter Jahiruddin Jalal, better known as ‘Bichhu Jalal’, expressed satisfaction over the verdict. He said this has proved that war criminals were among the top brass of the BNP.

Another freedom fighter Shahidul Haque said, “Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s arrogance has been destroyed after 42 years. The nation welcomes this verdict. Only one death penalty is enough for this kind of heavyweight trial.”

Historian Prof Muntasir Mamun said, “Prosecution sought punishment for genocide as we did… and we got it.”

The Sector Commanders’ Forum has also demanded that the verdict is carried out without delay.

Allegations of verdict leak

Though the first war crimes tribunal delivered the verdict on Tuesday, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and his family alleged that it had been available on the internet for the last two days.

Before the verdict, his younger son Hummam Quader Chowdhury told reporters that he read the verdict earlier from www.justiceconcern.org

“We are here to witness charade of a trial," he said.

His father also said held similar view and asked the judge to stop reading out the verdict.

After the verdict, his wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury told reporters, “We have seen the copy of the court’s verdict on multiple websites. We have learned that the document is of the law ministry. We are astounded to see how judges can read a copy from the law ministry.”

Brushing off the allegations, Attorney General Alam said, “Leaking of the judgment is out of question. It is not correct. It’s merely an assumption.”

Prosecutor Zead-AL-Malum said this was part of a new conspiracy and ‘a new drama’ to question the trial.

He also urged the law enforcement agencies to probe the matter at the soonest.

However, State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam said, “We are investigating the allegation. Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regulatory Corporation has been informed about the matter. Journalists will be briefed about the findings of the probe.”

He said the conspirators will also face trial.

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu believed the propaganda was being spread intentionally to confuse the people.

Inu said a computer operator named ‘Alam’ had been blamed for leaking the judgment allegedly from the computer of the Information Secretary who sits on the seventh floor.

“But the Information Secretary sits on the fifth floor and no one named Alam works in the law ministry.”

Vehicles torched, livelihood unaffected

This was the seventh verdict in similar cases to come over war crimes. The war crimes tribunals of Bangladesh had convicted six former and current leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami in as many previous verdicts.

The Jamaat had called nationwide general strikes for the day before and the day of the verdict in every case, but the main opposition BNP has kept mum regarding the case and verdict of Salauddin Quader.

Security measures were cranked up around the International Crimes Tribunal and adjacent areas ahead of the verdict on Tuesday morning, but it was somewhat less demonstrative than on days when verdicts on Jamaat leaders were expected.

Traffic in the streets adjacent to the tribunal was normal.

Police and RAB personnel cordoned off the tribunal and Supreme Court area since early morning. Journalists and observers were searched before being allowed into the tribunal premises.

Different pro-liberation war organisations and activists had come in processions and had gathered in front of the tribunal in the morning, like other past verdicts, demanding capital punishment for the war criminals.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troopers were also deployed at five Upazila’s in Chittagong, including Salauddin Quader’s constituency, Fatikchharhi, and ancestral home, Raozan.

Salauddin Quader was transferred to the Dhaka Central Jail from Kashimpur jail on Monday night. He was taken to the tribunal in a prison van that entered the court premises around 10am. He was sent back to Kashimpur jail after the verdict was announced.

He was stripped of VIP privileges and put into the condemned cell of the jail on Tuesday night.

Jailer Md Mojibur Rahman of Dhaka Central Jail-1 in Kashimpur at Gazipur told bdnews24.com that the convict had been transferred from the Dhaka Central Jail around 9pm amid tight security and taken to the cell where he will await execution.

Meanwhile, Salauddin Quader’s supporters, Chhatra Dal and Juba Dal activists, in Chittagong’s Rangunia torched four motorcycles and an auto-rickshaw right after his verdict was delivered. Attempts were also made to blockade the Chittagong-Kaptai road at Ghatchek with logs.

Several youths also set fire to a human hauler at Chittagong City’s Station Road.

A covered van and a truck were torched in Dhaka’s Bongabazar and Fakirerpool areas after the verdict. A driver was admitted to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital with burns.

Courting controversy

Salauddin Quader was born on Mar 13, 1949, at Gohira village under Raozan Upazila in Chittagong.

His father Fazlul Quader was also the Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan.

He took to politics through Muslim League. Later, he joined Jatiya Party and then NDP. Finally, he joined the BNP in the 1990s.

The six-time MP has been no stranger to controversy since he was first elected MP from Raozan on a Muslim League ticket in 1979.

He switched allegiance to Jatiya Party during the regime of despot Hussein Muhammad Ershad to foray into mainstream politics.

Salauddin Quader was elected MP from his constituency Raozan in 1986 again on a Jatiya Party ticket, only to be expelled later.

He floated his own party, the NDP, contested the 1991 election and was elected from Raozan again.

Some time later, the NDP merged with the BNP and he ran for Parliament with BNP ticket again in 1996 and got elected. He won the right to represent Rangunia constituency in 2001 elections.

The stalwart was also an adviser on parliamentary affairs to the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during the regime of BNP-led coalition government.

The charismatic politician also helmed ministries like the relief and rehabilitation, housing and public works and health and family welfare during Khaleda and Ershad's rule.

He had run from both Rangunia and Fatikchharhi in the 2008 general elections and was elected MP from Fatikchharhi, Chittagong-2 constituency, but lost in Rangunia.

He is currently a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.

Salauddin is eldest of his father’s four sons. His younger brother Giasuddin Quader Chowdhury is the President of Chittagong district north BNP unit.

His two other brothers, Saifuddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamal Uddin Quader Chowdhury, are said to have no direct involvement in politics.

The BNP leader had hogged headlines many times in the last two decades for his flashy, ‘arrogant’ and sometimes ‘obscene’ remarks.

He was criticised for making ‘indecent’ remarks about Awami League President Sheikh Hasina in the past disregarding his close family and political ties with the Awami League leaders.

Party leaders had also been harsh on him for making similar comments about BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and her eldest son, Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman.

The Election Commission had taken steps to cancel his membership in Parliament for providing ‘false information’ when he had mentioned ‘no educational qualification’ in his affidavit submitted for the ninth parliamentary elections.

But the matter did not move forward due to ‘legal limitations’.

Finally in the dock

A case was filed against him on July 26, 2010 at the International Crimes Tribunal. That year, in the early hours of December 16, the Victory Day, he was arrested at his home in another case for killing a commuter by setting him on fire during an opposition strike.

The Chittagong-2 MP was shown arrested for war crimes charges on Dec 19, 2010.

The prosecution on Oct 4, 2011 submitted a 119-page report on him. Formal charges were pressed against him on Nov 14, 2011, and the tribunal took them into cognisance three days later.

He was indicted on Apr 4 last year on 23 war crimes charges and witness deposition in the case began on May 3 same year through opening remarks of the prosecution.

Four persons, including the BNP leader, testified for the defence. The other three are: his college and university friend Nizam Ahmed, trustee board member of Asia-Pacific University Qayum Reza Chowdhury and former Ambassador Abdul Momen Chowdhury.

A total of 41 witnesses including investigation officer Md Nurul Islam deposed for the prosecution. The tribunal also accepted testimony of four other witnesses who had testified before the Investigation Officer.

The ICT-1 finished hearing the case on Aug 14 this year but kept the verdict pending.

Seventh Verdict

In its
, the tribunal sentenced former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar to death in absentia on Jan 21 this year.

Jamaat's Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Molla was given life in prison in the second verdict on February 5. The 'too lenient' lifer for the 'Butcher of Mirpur' gave rise to an unprecedented mass uprising dubbed 'Bangla Spring' at Dhaka's Shahbagh.

The government had amended the law to bring equal rights for appeal for both parties in the case. Following appeals by the prosecution and defence, the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division revised the sentence and handed down death penalty on Sept 17.

Jamaat's number two Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death by hanging on Feb 28 in the third verdict which led Jamaat to unleash a string of violence across the country. At least 70 people including policemen died in the skirmishes.

The party's Assistant Secretary General Mohammad Kamaruzzman was also ordered to walk the gallows in the fourth verdict delivered on May 9.

In the fifth verdict, Jamaat's Liberation War-time chief of East Pakistan unit, Ghulam Azam was sentenced to 90-year in prison on July 15. The tribunal said it went for the jail term considering the convict's age and health condition.

On July 17, Jamaat's Assistant Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed was sentenced to death in the sixth verdict.

(Reporting from court by Tanim Ahmed, Quazi Shahreen Haq and Suliman Niloy, additional reporting by Liton Haider, Moinul Hoque Chowdhury, Golam Mujtoba Dhrubo, Sajidul Haque, Faizul Siddiki, Farhan Fardaus; Mintu Chowdhury and Mithun Chowdhury from Chittagong office, Uttam Sengupta from Raozan and writing by Tanjir Rahman Bhuiyan and Zoglul Kamal)

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher