The three-judge International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Monday handed death sentence to Md Esahaque Shikder, 83, and four others in the Patuakhali war crimes case.
All the five were found guilty of committing war crimes as Razakar force members in the then Patuakhali Sadar thana of the then Patuakhali sub-division during the Liberation War.
Esahaque is from Gilabunia, Sadar upazila, Patuakhali.
A Gani alias A Gani Howlader, 72, of Galachipa, Md Awal alias Awal Moulovi, 69, of Galachipa, Md A Sattar Pada, 65, of Sharikkhal, and Solaiman Mridha alias Soleman Mridha, 86, of Ballabh, Sadar Upazila, Patuakhali, are the other convicts.
The presiding judge, Justice Md Shahinur Islam, pronounced the operative part of the unanimous verdict and Justice Amir Hossain and Justice Md Abu Ahmed Jamadar read out the summery of the verdict.
Seated in the dock’s chairs the five white bearded men looked sad as they heard the verdict.
All of them are in jail custody.
The tribunal found evidence that all of them were active members of the locally formed Razakar force.
They were found guilty of two charges for which they were indicted on March 8, 2017.
All the five men were handed death sentence finding them guilty of murdering 17 villagers after torturing them in confinement and setting fire to at least 12 houses after looting them in Itbaria, a village in the then Patuakhali Sadar thana on May 4, 1971.
They were also given death sentence for the abduction of 15 women from the same Itbaria village on the same day, taking them to the Circuit House army camp where they were tortured and raped for 10 days until May 14.
The army camp was described in the verdict as ‘in fact a “rape camp”’.
The operative part of verdict says ‘ they be hanged by the neck till they are dead.’
Their sentences would get merged once they are executed, says the verdict.
In the observations, the tribunal states ‘the perpetrators used the act of rape as a weapon which was more powerful than a bullet. Rape is thus a living death.’
About the victims, it says, ‘In fact they fought by laying their highest self-worth, for the cause of our independence. It is the time to unlock the collective voice to recognize and honour our great mothers and sisters, the war heroines.’
‘Justice has been done,’ senior war crimes prosecutor Zead Al Malum told reporters after leaving the courtroom.
Also present were chief war crimes prosecutor Golam Arief Tipoo and the other war crimes prosecutors.
Defence lawyer Abdus Sattar Palwan told reporters that his clients would appeal against the verdict.
All the convicts were members of Convention Muslim League.
The trial began on April 26, 2017 and ended on May 30.
This was the country’s 34th war crimes case verdict and 23rd for the ICT-1.
During the trial, 11 prosecution witnesses, including six victims of rape, were examined.
No defence witnesses were produced.
Until now, 78 war criminals have been convicted, 52 to death and 26 others were jailed.
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