Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee will have to languish in prison till death as per a modified judgement passed by the
Appellate Division (AD) of the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday.
The apex court commuted the death sentence, which was pronounced by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 on February 28 in 2013, for his crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War in 1971.
A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain gave the verdict on majority opinion. The other members of the bench are Justice SK Sinha, Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury.
The Chief Justice did not disclose the names of the judges who favoured commuting his death penalty and who backed the trial tribunal's order.
Sayedee will have to remain in prison "for the rest of his natural life," said the Chief Justice while pronouncing the verdict in a jam-packed courtroom at 10:30 am.
The Jamaat-e-Islami leader, known as 'Dellya Razakar' in 1971, was indicted on twenty specific charges including genocide, rape, murder and arson.
The Tribunal-1 found him guilty of eight charges but penalised him for two gruesome killings- one Ibrahim Kutti and another Bisa Bali - in Pirojpur during the war. Six other charges -though proved beyond doubt-went unpunished.
The SC, however, found him guilty of five charges of crimes against humanity and awarded different jail terms for all those crimes. The SC acquitted him of 15 other charges.
The SC pronounced his imprisonment until death for the persecution and killing of Bisa Bali on June 2 in 1971 at village Umedpur and setting fire to 25 houses (charge No 10).
Bisa Bali, a Bangali Hindu, was tied up to a coconut tree and shot dead at Sayedee's instigation.
The SC pronounced same punishment for him for confinement and rape of three women, Mohamaya, Anno Rani and Komol Rani (charge No 16) and forced conversion of members of the Hindu community of Pirojpur (charge No 19).
Sayedee helped Pakistani troops to abduct these three sisters of one Gauranga Saha. Gauranga described the incidents in vivid detail to the court when he was summoned as a witness. His three sisters came back three days later from the nearby army camp where they were repeatedly raped and tortured.
The SC awarded Sayedee 10 years of rigorous imprisonment (under charge No 7) for torture of Shahidul Islam Selim and 12 years of rigorous imprisonment (under charge No 8) for killing of Md Ibrahim, torture of Mofiz Uddin, and other persecutions.
Earlier, he got death sentence under the charge No 8. Besides, the SC acquitted him from charges No 6, 11 and 14.
Charge No 6 and 11 were of persecution on political and religious grounds raiding and looting shops and houses of Freedom Fighters, Awami League supporters, Hindus and pro-Liberation people at Parerhat Bazar and Tengrakhali village.
Charge No 14 involves persecution and abetting rape of one in village Hoglabunia under Pirojpur Sadar.
The SC bench in a jam-packed courtroom pronounced, "Sayedee's sentence in respect of charge No 10 is commuted to imprisonment to rest of his natural life by majority. He is sentenced to imprisonment for the rest of his natural life in respect to charge No 16 and 19 by majority."
"Sayedee is acquitted of charge No 6, 11, 14 and part of charge No 8 by majority. Sayedee's sentence in respect of charge No 8 is altered to 12 years rigorous imprisonment. Both appeals are allowed in part by majority," the court said.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, Additional Attorneys General Murad Reza and Md Mamtaz Uddin Fakir represented the state while Khandker Mahbub Hossain and SM Shahjahan stood for Sayedee.
Security was beefed up across the country since Tuesday afternoon as soon as it was known that the Appellate Division would announce the verdict on Wednesday.
In the capital and elsewhere, security was ratcheted up and surveillance propped up from Tuesday around important establishments, government offices, petrol pumps and other key establishments.
The SC compound was also put under tight security blanket. Archway-type metal detectors have been installed at the entry points.
The case is considered very sensitive one as at least 70 people, including policemen, were killed in violence unleashed by Sayedee's followers and party activists after the verdict of ICT-1 on February 28 in 2013, ordering him to walk the gallows. At least 200 others were injured and attacks were carried out on Hindus.
The 74-year-old Sayedee is in Gazipur's Kashimpur Jail. He has been in jail since June 29 in 2009.
The SC began hearing the appeal petitions of Sayedee and the prosecution simultaneously on September 24 last year. The hearing concluded on April 16. The apex court kept its verdict waiting for delivery since then.
Earlier, the Appellate Division disposed of the appeals in Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah's case awarding death sentence by modifying the ICT verdict that awarded him life-term imprisonment.
The fate of four other war crime convicts is now pending for decisions of the Supreme Court, as they filed appeal petitions against the verdicts of the tribunals. The convicts are former Jamaat Ameer Ghulam Azam, its leaders Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
Hearing on appeal of Kamaruzzaman also ended yesterday. The case is awaiting verdict any day.
Two international crimes tribunals have awarded capital punishment to Mojaheed, Sayedee, Kamaruzzaman and Salauddin and handed down 90 years' imprisonment to Ghulam Azam and life term to Alim for their wartime offences.