Absconding BNP leader Zahid Hossain Khokon, popularly known as Khokon Razakar, has been awarded death penalty for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
The three-member International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1, led by Justice M Enayetur Rahim, pronounced the verdict at 11:56am on Thursday. Justice Anwarul Haque and Justice Jahangir Hossain also read out the verdicts in parts.
Khokon, the incumbent mayor of Faridpur's Nagarkanda municipality, was found guilty of 10 among the 11 brought against him.
The tribunal awarded him death on six charges and a total of 40 years of imprisonment in the remaining four.
He is guilty of committing, abetting and facilitating mass killings, murder, torture, deportation, rape and confinement among other crimes committed during the War of Liberation.
His involvement in killing 62 people in different incidents was proved beyond doubt and the tribunal announced capital punishment for the mass murder.
He got capital punishment for killing 19 people including women and children at Kodalia village and for setting fire to many houses and gunning down four people at Ishwardi village.
He was also sentenced to death for burning to death three people at Kodalia village, shooting one Asiruddin Matubbar of Meherdia village dead and for accompanying the Pakistani army men, who shot dead Safizuddin Matubbar.
Khokon along with some Razakars and the Pakistani army men shot dead two persons including a two-year-old baby in Goaldi village for which he was given death penalty.
He received capital punishment for his involvement in killing six people at Purapara village on May 31, setting fire to many houses at Bagat and Churichar villages on June 1 and killing around 15-20 people.
The tribunal jailed him for 20 years for his involvement in looting and raping two women at Chandhat village on May 27. He was given 10 years imprisonment for converting eight Hindus at Jongurdi-Bagutia village into Muslims any day between May 16 and May 28 in 1971.
Khokon received five years' imprisonment for destroying houses at Jongurdi-Bagutia village while another five years for shooting and injuring one Kanailal Mondol of Jonggurdi-Bagutia village.
The verdict on Khokon is the war crimes tribunal's third on absconding individuals. The convict can file an appeal before the end of a month, but is only entitled to do it if he surrenders.
The law enforcers are clueless about where he is hiding but Bangladeshis living in Sweden said the man was living with his elder son and daughter there.
Earlier in 2013, the tribunal in its first verdict sentenced former Jamaat-e-Islami member Abul Kalam Azad aka Bacchu Razakar to death in absentia. In its ninth, it handed death to former Al-Badr leaders Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, both of whom are living abroad.
Khokon, who joined the BNP after Ziaur Rahman came to power, had campaigned for the Jamaat-e-Islami in the election in 1970. The 66-year old was elected the municipality mayor of Nagarkanda in 2011.
The leader of Rajakar Bahini under Nagarkanda Police Station, Khokon took over after his brother 'Razakar Zafor' was shot dead by freedom fighters after they fought the Pakistani Army at Chandhat on May 29. Zafor headed one of Nagarkanda's 'Mujahid Bahini' to aid the Pakistani Army.
Khokon was a member of Ansar who used his training to organise the Razakar Bahini in Nagarkanda, according to writers and freedom fighters who have documented the Liberation war fought in Faridpur.
The prosecution's probe official Satyaranjan Roy investigated Khokon from Apr 16, 2012 to May 28, 2013. He submitted his report on May 29.
On June 23, 2013, the prosecution submitted to the tribunal formal war crimes charges against him. The prosecution produced 24 prosecution witnesses to prove the charges made against the accused.
On April 17, the tribunal kept the verdict pending to be delivered any day after closing legal arguments from both sides over the war crimes case.
Advocate Mukhlesur Rahman Badal conducted the case for the prosecution while A Shukur Khan for the fugitive accused as state defence counsel.