Top court up­holds ty­coon’s death sen­tence

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A TY­COON who was a chief fi­nancier for Bangladesh’s largest Is­lamist party could be ex­e­cuted within days af­ter los­ing his fi­nal ap­peal yes­ter­day against a death sen­tence from a con­tro­ver­sial war crimes tri­bunal.

The Supreme Court re­jected Mir Quasem Ali’s last at­tempt to over­turn the death sen­tence handed down two years ago by the do­mes­tic tri­bunal for mur­ders com­mit­ted dur­ing Bangladesh’s 1971 in­de­pen­dence con­flict.

“Now he has a chance to seek pres­i­den­tial clemency. Or else the ver­dict could be ex­e­cuted any­time when­ever the state wants,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mah­bubey Alam said af­ter the ver­dict was handed down.

Five op­po­si­tion lead­ers in­clud­ing four lead­ing Is­lamists have al­ready been ex­e­cuted for war crimes since 2013. They were all hanged just days af­ter their ap­peals were re­jected by the Supreme Court.

Their fam­i­lies said they had re­fused to seek a pres­i­den­tial par­don as they did not want to le­git­imise the whole tri­als process.

Mr Ali, who be­came a ship­ping and real es­tate ty­coon, was con­victed in Novem­ber 2014 of a se­ries of crimes dur­ing Bangladesh’s war of sep­a­ra­tion from Pak­istan, in­clud­ing the ab­duc­tion and murder of a young in­de­pen­dence fighter.

Yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion is con­sid­ered a ma­jor blow for the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami party, which the 63-year-old Mr Ali had helped re­vive by set­ting up char­i­ties, busi­nesses and trusts linked to it af­ter it was al­lowed to op­er­ate in the late 1970s.

His son Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, who was part of his le­gal de­fence team in court, was ab­ducted ear­lier this month, which crit­ics say was an at­tempt to sow fear and pre­vent protests against the im­mi­nent ex­e­cu­tion.

Se­cu­rity was tight in Dhaka yes­ter­day, even though the party has in re­cent months es­chewed vi­o­lent protests in re­ac­tion to war crimes ver­dicts and there was no im­me­di­ate sign of un­rest.

The war crimes tri­bunal set up by the govern­ment has di­vided the coun­try, with sup­port­ers of Ja­maat and the main op­po­si­tion Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP) brand­ing them a sham aimed at elim­i­nat­ing their lead­ers.

Be­fore he was ar­rested in 2012 on 14 war crimes charges, Mr Ali headed the Di­ganta Me­dia Cor­po­ra­tion, which owns a pro-Ja­maat daily and a tele­vi­sion sta­tion that was shut down in 2013 for stok­ing re­li­gious ten­sions.

De­fence lawyers have said the charges against him were “base­less and false” and that he was not at the scene of the crimes for which he has been con­victed.

Rights groups have also crit­i­cised the tri­als, say­ing they fall short of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and lack any for­eign over­sight.

Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina’s govern­ment has de­fended the tri­als, say­ing they are needed to heal the wounds of the con­flict, which it says left three mil­lion peo­ple dead.

Bangladesh’s in­de­pen­dence war broke out with Ja­maat op­pos­ing the strug­gle and sid­ing with the mil­i­tary regime in Islamabad, Pak­istan.

In­de­pen­dent re­searchers es­ti­mate that be­tween 300,000 and 500,000 peo­ple died in the 1971 war. –

Photo: AFP

Bangladeshi Ja­maat-e-Is­lami party leader Mir Quasem Ali waves while en­ter­ing a court in Dhaka on Novem­ber 2, 2014. He could be ex­e­cuted within days af­ter los­ing death sen­tence im­posed by a con­tro­ver­sial war crimes tri­bunal.

van at the In­ter­na­tional Crimes Tri­bunal his fi­nal ap­peal yes­ter­day against the

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