28 Feb 2013: Sayedee Convicted of 8 out of 20 Charges, Sentenced to Death

Sayedee Verdict
Today Tribunal 1 issued the third verdict of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal. The verdict was issued against Delwar Hossain Sayedee who was tried for 20 Charges [See here for the Charge Framing Order]. Sayedee was found guilty on 8 Charges, specifically Charges 6,7,8,10,11,14,16 and 19. He was acquitted of Charges 1,2,3,4,5,9,12,13,15,17 and 18. Charge 20 was dropped previously by the Prosecution.

The Tribunal sentenced Sayedee to death based on his conviction on Charges 8 and 10. Under Charge 8 he was found guilty of directly participating in abduction, murder and persecution as Crimes against Humanity in conjunction with the 8 May 1971 attack on houses of Chitholia, arson attack on the Hindu community at Parerhat Bandar, and instigation of the torture and murder of a civilian, Ibrahim. Under Charge 10 Sayedee was found guilty of direct participation in persecution and murder as Crimes against humanity in conjunction with the 2 June 1971 arson attack on the Hindu Para of Umedpur and ordering the killing of an individual, Bisabali.

We have not yet obtained copies of the summary or full judgment, but will make them available as soon as we receive them.

Procedural History:
Delwar Hossain Sayedee was first detained by order of the ICT on 2 November 2010. Tribunal 1 Issued the Charge Framing order on 3 October 2011. The Prosecution deposed a total of 28 witnesses, including the Investigating Officer. The Tribunal also admitted into evidence the out-of-court statements of 16 other witnesses whom the Prosecution alleged were either dead or could not be produced without unreasonable delay or expenditure. This is allowed under Section 19(2) of the ICT Act. On 14 August 2011, after hearing an application from the Prosecution, the Tribunal limited the Defense to 20 witnesses, stating that their proposed list of 48 witnesses was excessive. The Defense ultimately deposed 17 witnesses before the Tribunal.

The Trial was marked by a number of controversies. In particular, the Defense alleged that a number of witnesses who provided out-of-court statements under Section 19(2) were in fact available to appear before the Tribunal but were intentionally kept by the Prosecution at the Witness Safe House. Additionally, on November 5th the Defense reported that its witness, Shukharanjan Bali, was abducted from outside the tribunal gates by plain clothes police officers identifying themselves as belonging to the Detective Branch. Bali was originally identified as a Prosecution witness, but later agreed to testify for the Defense. The Defense alleged that the Prosecution did not want him to appear and testify. The Tribunal claimed that it investigated the incident and found no evidence that such an event took place. Applications for a writ of habeas corpus were rejected by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Finally, in early December the trial was disrupted by controversy when the former Chairman of Tribunal 1 announced that his email and skype had allegedly been hacked. The Economist and other media outlets went on to publish excerpts of alleged conversations between Chairman Nizamul Hoq and foreign legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin. The Defense alleged that these conversations showed collusion between the Judges, outside activists advocating for the conviction of the alleged war criminals, and the Prosecution. The former Chairman resigned on 11 December 2012 and was replaced by ATM Fazle Kabir, who had previously sat as a Judge in Tribunal 1 before being moved to head Tribunal 2. Under the reconstituted bench the Tribunal rejected the Defense’s application for retrial stating that the contents of the alleged skype and email conversations were inadmissible as illegally obtained evidence and that the independence of the Tribunal had in no way been compromised. [For more detail see our posts here.] The Tribunal ordered the parties to resubmit their closing arguments so that all three presiding judges could hear the summation of the case. The resubmission of Closing Arguments was concluded on 29 January 2012 and has been awaiting judgment for the past month.

General Allegations of the Case:
The Prosecution’s case focuses on the allegation that Sayedee formerly had the name Delu Shikdar. They claim that he rose from being a a store vendor in Parerhat before the Liberation War   to become a leader of the local Razakar unit which is accused of conducting raids and committing atrocities against the local population. The Prosecution alleges that Shikdar/Sayedee became a member of the local Peace Committee and was valued for his fluency in Urdu. They claim that after the war Shikdar went into hiding and emerged much later under the name Sayedee.

The Defence claims that Sayedee is not the same person as Delwar Hossain Shikdar, and that in fact the latter was apprehended and executed by freedom fighters after the war. They claim that Sayedee lived in Jessore during and before 1971 and has always been engaged in religious study and teaching. The Defense presented a version of events in which Sayedee fled his village home with his family around the time of the alleged crimes and therefore could not have been present during their commission.

The Breakdown of Charges:
Sayedee faced 20 Charges, 19 of which were pursued through the termination of the trial by the Prosecution. The red highlighting below indicates a guilty verdict on the specified charge, while the blue indicates not guilty. The below descriptions are taken from the Charge Framing Order. It should be noted that under the Charge Framing Order one charge at times encompasses multiple crimes, for example Charge 2 alleges Genocide and Persecution as a Crime against Humanity. Where the Charge Framing Order included the alleged date of the incident it is included, where it is estimated in general terms, e.g. “during the time of liberation war”, it is included in parentheses.

  1. Murder as a Crime against Humanityfor providing secret information to the Pakistani Army and in a planned way killing 20 unnamed civilians by shooting on 4 May 1971;
  2. Genocide and Persecution as a Crime against Humanity: for participating in a looting and arson attack on the Hndu Para of Prozpur and for opening fire and killing 13 civilians on 4 May 1971;
  3. Persecution as a Crime against Humanity: for leading a team of the Pakistani Army in a looting and arson attack on the Masimpur Hindu Para and nearby villages on 4 May 1971;
  4. Direct Participation in and Abetting of Abduction and Murder as Crimes against Humanity: for calling for the arrest of Saif Mizanur Rahman, identifying him to the Pakistani Army, and for being present during the killing of Rahman and two other civilian government officers on 5 May 1971;
  5. Genocide: for accompanying the Pakistani Army in an attack on the Hindu Para of Dhopa Bari and opening fire and killing four individuals with the intent to destroy members of the Hindu Community on 4 May 1971.
  6. Persecution as a Crime against Humanity: for identifying the homes and businesses of Awami League supporters, Hindus, and supporters of independence, and for participating in the looting of those homes and businesses on 7 May 1971;
  7. Persecution and Abetting Torture as Crimes against Humanity: for leading a team of Peace Committee members and the Pakistani Army in an arson and looting attack on Awami League member Nurul Islam Khan’s house and for identifying him as freedom fighter to the Pakistani Army who thereafter tortured him on 8 May 1971;
  8. Abduction, Murder and Persecution as Crimes Against Humanity: for leading accomplices and the Pakistani Army on an arson attack on the Hindu houses in Chitholia and the nearby areas, and for instigating the shooting of one Ibrahim and the torture of one Mofiz on 8 May 1971.
  9. Persecution as a Crime against Humanity: for leading armed associates and the Pakistani Army in an arson and looting attack on the house of Abdul Halim Babul in Nolbunia, on 2 June 1971.
  10. Persecution and Murder as Crimes Against Humanity: for leading armed associates and the Pakistani Army on an arson attack on the Hindu Para of Umedpur, and by instigating the shooting of Bisabali by an accomplice, on 2 June 1971;
  11. Torture and Persecution and Crimes Against Humanity: for leading a team of Peace Committee members and Pakistani forces in an arson and looting attack on the houses of freedom fighter Mahbubul Howlader, and for detaining and torturing his brother Abdul Mazid Howlader on 2 June 1971.
  12. Genocide: for leading an armed group of accomplices in capturing 14 Hindus from the Hindu Para of Parerhat Bazar and delivering them to the Pakistani military who then killed them and threw their bodies in the river (date not specified in the Charge Framing Order),
  13. Murder, Torture and Abduction as Crimes against Humanity: for leading members of the Peace Committee with the Pakistani Army on a raid of Azhar Ali’s house, torturing Azhar Ali and his son Shaheb Ali, and for abducting and killing Shaheb Ali (2-3 months after the start of the Liberation War);
  14. Persecution and Rape as Crimes against Humanity: for leading the Razakar Bahini in an arson attack on Hindu Para of Hoglabunia and allowing subordinates to rape Shefali Gharami (during the last part of the liberation war)
  15. Genocide: for leading the Razakars in an attack on 10 Hindu civilians who were handed over to the Pakistani Army with the intent to destroy a religious group (during the last part of the liberation war);
  16. (Abetting) Abduction, Confinement and Rape as Crimes against Humanity: for leading a group of Razakars and Peace Committee members in the abduction of Mohamaya, Anno Rani, and Komol Rani – the three sisters of Gowranga Saha, and delivering them to the Pakistani Army camp were they were confined and raped for three days (“during the time of liberation war in 1971”); [NOTE: the Charge framing order states that “You are directly involved in abetting the offence of abduction, confinement and rape as crimes against humanity. Thus, you have committed an offence of abduction, confinement and rape under section 3(2)(a) and 3(2)(g) of the Act,” making it unclear whether the Prosecution is alleging principal or accomplice liability for this charge. We will clarify the conviction upon receiving the Judgment from the Tribunal.]
  17. Rape as a Crime against Humanity: for confining and raping Vanu Shaha at Bipod Shaha’s house in Parerhat in collaboration with other armed Razakars (“during the time of liberation war”);
  18. Abetting Torture and Murder as Crimes against Humanity: for instigating the arrest, torture and murder of Bhagirothi; (“during the liberation war”);
  19. Forced Conversion as a Crime against Humanity: for exercising influence over the Hindu community of Pirozpur Subdivision and forcibly converting as many as 150 Hindus to Islam between 26 March and 16 December 1971;
  20. [CHARGE NOT PRESSED BY PROSECUTION] Abduction, Torture and Abetting Rape as Crimes against Humanity: for leading an group of Razakar Bahini in an attack on Talukdar Bari in Indurkani, detaining 85 persons and looting their goods, torturing male detainees, and allowing the Pakistani Army to rape Dipali and Maya Rani at the end of November, 1971.

Once we obtain the full Judgment we will publish another post dedicated to a more detailed examination of the legal conclusions contained in the verdict.