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Life-term was inadequate, says SC full verdict

M Moneruzzaman

The Appellate Division which earlier  sentenced Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla to death in its full verdict released Thursday with the observation the life-term awarded to him by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 was inadequate compared to the gravity of his 1971 war crimes.
On September 17, in a four to one short order, a five-judge Appellate Division bench chaired by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain had overturned the ICT-2’s February 5 verdict.
The 790-page full verdict of the apex court was written by three judges, Justice SK Sinha, Justice Md Wahhab Miah and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury.
The Chief Justice and Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain made some observations supporting the decisions of Justice Sinha and Justice Shamsuddin.
In his dissenting verdict, Justice Wahhab upheld the trial court decision.
‘It is one of the fittest case to award the appellant the highest sentence in respect of the charge No.6 in which the killings and the rapes were brutal, cold blooded, diabolical and barbarous. If the tribunal does not award the maximum sentence
considering the gravity of the charge, it will be difficult to find any other fit case to award such sentence,’ said the majority verdict.
The verdict said that the ICT had failed to mention the circumstantial evidences that supported his death sentence for killing six family members of Momena Begum at Mirpur in the city on July 26, 1971.
The apex court noted that the direct evidence given by Momena Begum of what had taken place on July 26, 1971 was corroborated by the circumstantial evidence presented by six other prosecution witnesses.
It is to be noted that the tribunal erred by failing to notice that besides Momena, the third prosecution witness , the prosecution led circumstantial evidences given by six other prosecution witnesses corroborated her.
The evidences given by the six witnesses prove the motive of the appellant right from the 1970 election and the existence of this motive is a circumstance corroborative of the case against the appellant, said the apex court.
Therefore, the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to the appellant in respect of charge number six, relating to the killings of six kin of Momena, is based on the total non application of mind and contrary to the sentencing principle, it said.
The punishment is designed to protect society by deterring potential offenders, it said.
Momema Begum, the third prosecution witness, is the only possible natural witness in the case, and death sentence is the only proper sentence, it said.
Similar view has been expressed by the Supreme Court of India, it said.
The appellant’s motive raises strong presumption that he committed the crimes, it said.
Coupled with it, the previous conduct of the appellant must have reference to the incidents he was involved, it said.
Quader Molla along with his cohorts had surrounded the house of Momena’s father Hazarat Ali Laskar, killed her parents, a minor brother and three minor sisters, raped one of them, only because Hazrat Ali  was an Awami League supporter and  admirer of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
These nefarious acts were perpetrated in a preplanned manner, said the apex court verdict.
Quader was associated with the politics of Islami Chhatra Sangh and Jamat even before the 1970 election at Mirpur and, therefore held grudge against Hazrat Ali, it said.
The aim of the perpetrators was to wipe out the family of tailor Hazrat Ali, and somehow Momena survived, it said.
Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, in his dissenting opinion upheld the ICT verdict citing the ground that Momena had said that she was not present on the spot of the killings in her statements recorded by ‘Zallad Khana’ a museum on 1971 atrocities at Mirpur, and also the war crimes case investigation officer.
Momena’s statements recorded by the museum and also the investigation officer show that she was 12-year old and a student of Class-v in 1971 and that she had gone to her father-in-law’s house two days before the killings, observed the judge in his dissenting decision.  
Justice Wahhab Miah, however, said that the statement Momena had given to the museum, ‘cannot be accepted in its intrinsic value.’
In his part of the verdict Justice Wahhab Miah said that the government’s appeal against Quader Molla’s inadequate was maintainable, ‘but it is dismissed on merit.’
Justice Wahhab also said that the appeal Quader Molla filed seeking his acquittal was allowed in part.
He upheld the appellant’s life-term awarded by the ICT in respect of charge No.4 and acquitted him of three other charges for which he was sentenced to varying terms. 
State minister for law Quamrul Islam told reporters that he hoped that the death penalty to Quader Molla would be executed at the soonest.
After receiving the Appellate Division verdict, the ICT-2 would issue a warrant to the prison authorities for the execution of the death sentence, the junior minister said at his office.
Quader Molla can only seek mercy from the president, Quamrul added.
He said that the International Crimes Tribunal Act stipulates no scope for review of the apex court verdict. 

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