'Be you ever so high, the law is higher than you,' observes ICT -1 while sentending SQC to death

‘Be you ever so high, the law is higher than you,’ observes ICT -1 while sentending SQC to death

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Dhaka – The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Tuesday condemned Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, MP to death on four counts of crimes
against humanity, including genocide, during the Liberation War 42 years ago.
With the 64-year-old accused in the dock, tribunal chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, flanked by its two other members — Justice Jahangir
Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque — pronounced the verdict in the jam-packed courtroom.
The tribunal also sentenced Salauddin Quader to a total of 70 years’ rigorous imprisonment with different jail terms on five counts of
charges.
Of the sentences, the capital punishment stands in operation, the 172-page judgment said.
Soon after the judgment, war criminal Salauddin Quader wearing white panjabi and trouser from the dock said, “The verdict has already been
released by the Law Ministry and it’s available online since yesterday (Monday), thanks to the Law Ministry.”
Emerging from the tribunal, Salauddin Quader’s counsel Barrister Fakhrul Islam told journalists that he would appeal before the Supreme
Court against the ICT verdict.
This is the first verdict, delivered by the ICT that deals with the cases of the 1971 war crimes, against any BNP front-ranking leader.
The tribunal found Salauddin Quader, the son of the Pakistan Convention Muslim League president Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, guilty of
the crimes of genocide at Rauzan and murder of minority Hindu community members, including Nutan Chandra Singh, the founder of
Kundeshwari Owsadhalay of Gohira, Awami League leaders and supporters of Bangladesh’s war of independence.
The tribunal also found him guilty of the charge of torture the accused carried out on captives at his ancestral house ‘Goods Hill’ in
the port city of Chittagong during the 1971 Liberation War.
Earlier, the ICT-1 awarded former ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Ghulam Azam 90 years’ imprisonment and its nayeb-e-ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee
death penalty. Both the judgments have been challenged before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which are now pending.
Chowdhury was, however, acquitted of eight charges as the prosecution failed to prove those charges beyond any reasonable doubt.
Besides, during the trial, the prosecution could not place its witnesses to prove the other six charges brought against Salauddin
Quader, also a former minister during Gen HM Ershad’s military rule.
The 172-page judgment was pronounced by all the three judges in phases, which had been kept pending for 47 days after closing
law-point arguments by both sides.
On the eve of pronouncing the judgment, the government ensured foolproof security in and around the tribunal at Old High Court
Building.
A total of 41 prosecution witnesses, including the investigation officer, testified against Salauddin Quader while four defence
witnesses for him.
The prosecution submitted formal charge against Salauddin Quader, also MP for six times, on November 14, 2011.
The tribunal took cognisance of the offences on November 17, 2011.
On April 4 last year, the tribunal indicted Salauddin Quader for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War
on 23 counts under different provisions of subsection 3 (2) and 4(1) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
The charges include abduction and killing civilians, collaborating with the Pakistani occupation army to kill and torture unarmed people,
genocide, looting of valuables and torching of houses and other property, persecuting people on religious and political grounds, and
committing atrocities on Hindus in Chittagong district.
The tribunal in its judgment made an observation on Salauddin Quader’s habitual haughty behaviour during the trial proceedings terming it
unusual and unbecoming.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Tuesday made oblique observations in its 172-page judgment over the  demeanour of war
criminal condemned convict Salauddin Quader Chowdhury terming it unusual and unbecoming.
The tribunal said it is one of the duties of a trial court to observe the demeanour of a witness during trial because finding of facts is
based upon the credibility of evidence adduced by a witness and such observation of the trial court carries much weight in the estimation
of the apex court.
“During trial of the case, we’ve observed many things, but we like to mention a few traits of the accused, a sitting member of the National
Parliament of Bangladesh and elected MP for six times,  which appeared to us unusual and unbecoming,” said the tribunal.
It said at the early stage of the trial the accused willfully used to violate decorum of the courtroom by shouting and thus by the order on
January 10, last year he was warned for his unruly behaviour.
After closing every day’s proceeding while judges leave the courtroom as a practice, all the people present in the courtroom use to stand to
pay respect to the court but the accused remained sitting on his chair, he seldom used to stand at the time of exit of the judges,
noted the tribunal.
It also said the tribunal has been set up by the government appointing judges of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh knowing the fact well, the
accused used to address the judges of the tribunal as ‘chairman saheb’ or ‘member saheb’.
The accused is the sitting lawmaker of the country but his attitude towards the judiciary has been found to be disrespectful, said the
tribunal, adding that the accused is an elected people’s representative but his art of deliberation, actions and conduct as
shown in the courtroom were not inconformity with rightness, decency and convention of good behaviour.
It further said everybody should keep in mind, especially the accused, a lawmaker should not forget the popular dictum “Be you ever so high,
the law is higher than you”.
“Needless to mention here that our observations will in no way affect the merit of the defence case,” the tribunal added.

Advocates Syed Haider Ali, Zead Al Malum, Sultan Mahmud Simon and Dr Tureen Afroz appeared for the prosecution while advocate Ahsanul Huq
Huq Hena appeared for the accused as the chief counsel. – UNB

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