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Sep 19

Unjust Allama Sayedee Verdict, A Nation in Unrest

Allama Delwar Hussain Sayedee, a Naib-e-Ameer of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and one of the most prominent Islamic scholars in Bangladesh, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on alleged charges of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 War of Independence. The Supreme Court commuted an earlier death sentence given by the special International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) on February 28 2013 to life imprisonment.

Allama Sayedee

The ICT was set up by the current ruling Awami League government to try those alleged to have committed crimes against humanity during the war over 40 years ago. Although there has been some demands from the victims of the 1971 war for justice, the current mechanism through the ICT has widely been vied as totally inadequate, with accusations of being politically motivated against the opponents of the ruling Awami League and lacking minimum international standards required for such tribunals and courts. Numerous International observers and bodies including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, USA State Department and European Court of Human Rights among others have criticised the Bangladeh ICT as having too many shortcomings to be able to deliver a transparent justice that it has been set up for. The higher courts also stand accused of being politically infiltrated by the ruling party in order to ensure desired verdicts against its political opponents.

So far one Jamaat leader, Mr Abdul Quader Mollah, was executed by hanging in December 2013 through a highly controversial verdict from these controversial courts. The previous verdicts and their implementations are believed by many to have been carried out in line with political circumstances to ensure the maximum political benefits to the ruling Awami League; the hanging of Mr Mollah was rushed before completion of due process of the law as a seeming political act in the run up to the January 2014 general elections that saw the Awami League retain the ruling seat against the backdrop of opposition election boycott and poor voter turnout. It is believed by many that the previous death penalty against Mr Sayedee by the ICT, and the subsequent commuting to the lifetime imprisonment today by the Supreme Court, are similarly politically manipulated.

Mr Sayedee asserts to have been politically impartial and inactive n 1971. Credible evidence and witnesses for his innocence has been disregarded by both courts. One of his key witnesses, Mr Shukhoranjan Bali, was abducted by the government’s security forces at the court gates in November 2012 just as he was about to enter the court to give evidence in support of Mr Sayedee. Mr Bali was later discovered to have been transferred to India where he has been located in Dum Dum Central Jail, Kolkata.

Mr Sayedee is a very popular Islamic scholar and preacher with millions of supporters throughout Bangladesh and the diaspora. He is one of the most popular leaders of Jamaat which is a member of the opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. It is alleged that the ruling Awami League is manipulating the sensitivities surrounding the 1971 Independence War to harass and eliminate its political opponents, and in particular the religious political opponents from Jamaat who form the bulk of the ICT accused.

Mr Sayedee maintained his full innocence and his lawyers have vowed to continue fighting for his acquittal and freedom. [1]

Reaction of Sayedee’s son Masood to Appeal Verdict


Masood-Sayedee

“We will submit a review petition after receiving the full written verdict.

We are not fully satisfied even though the death penalty has been commuted. We were able to convince the tribunal that Allama Sayedee is innocent with all evidence. You all know that this is the case where we have seen the ‘Skype scandal’, the case where kidnapping of witness took place, which had ‘Safe house scandal’, after all these, the nation did not expect anything less than his full acquittal.

We are not satisfied. Because he is innocent and he deserved to be released without any condition.

Of course, we will submit the review petition after we receive the full verdict from the court in our hands. “ [2]

Spontaneous Countywide Demonstrations


Jamaat-e-Islami immediately called a 48 hour hartal protesting the unjust verdict against Allama Sayedee as hundreds of people came out on the streets from all parts of the country to protest the injustice that was being carried out against Sayedee. The pictures below show people spontaneously coming out on streets in protest of the verdicts in Dhaka and elsewhere on the 16th of September, 2014 right after the appeal verdict was announced sometime after 10:30 am in the morning.

There were reports of severe clashes with the law enforcers in Rajshahi, Habiganj and Pabna in protest of the verdict. News reports state that clashes with the police have left about 105 protesters injured. Police also swooped down on peaceful protesters in many places and carried out unauthorized raids on opposition strongholds, leading to the arrest of about 242 people around the country for their role in leading and organising protests against the unjust verdict of Allama Sayedee. [6]

An empty Shahbag tries to garner attention via pandemonium


At least four activists of one of the two factions of Ganajagaran Mancha, including the spokesperson for that faction, Imran H Sarker, were injured as they faced police action during a demonstration after Sayedee verdict at Shahbagh intersection in the city on Wednesday. The three other injured are Tanzil, Nazmul and Bindu.

Police used water canons, and teargas, on activists of Gonojagoron Mancha at Shahbagh intersection yesterday as the Imran faction supporting activists tried to stage a sit-in protest. Terming the verdict “biased”, activists of the Imran H Sarker-led Mancha tried to move towards the SC around 10:30am when they were stopped by police near the Doyel Chattar.

Both factions then took their position opposite the National Museum to hold protest rallies demanding death sentence to Sayedee, locals said.

At least four activists of the Imran-led faction were injured in a clash with police around 11:30am as law enforcers charged batons and lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the activists who tried to obstruct and attack vehicles plying at the intersection. Imran, one of the injured, was taken to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.

“It is a biased verdict aimed at establishing the politics of Jamaat-e-Islami and Shibir. The verdict is an outcome of the government’s compromise with Jamaat,” said Imran, also spokesperson of the faction while talking to reporters at Shahbagh.

He also alleged that the government split the platform in two to divide the youth against such biased verdicts.

In an interview with BBC Bangla, Shibli Noman, superintendent of Ramna zone police, said police dispersed the Mancha activists considering the location of two hospitals on the spot.

“We have heard screams of patients as ambulances stood stuck in traffic due to the rallies,” he said.

The Kamal Pasha-led faction (more supportive of government) too faced police barricade when its activists tried to stage a sit-in at the Shahbag intersection.

“We reject the verdict as it does not reflect the aspirations of pro-liberation war people,” said Kamal.

He, however, said he was unaware of the government’s compromising stance with Jamaat.

“We do not know anything about the issue,” he said.

Following the police attack, Shahbag Andolon, a third platform of war crimes trial campaigners, proposed both factions to come under one platform to strengthen the movement to ensure capital punishment for war criminals.

“We will sit with Imran and Kamal so that we can bring them together”, said Bappaditya Basu, one of the organisers of Shahbagh Andolon and a leftist student leader.

Gonojagoron Mancha, which drew spontaneous public support against war criminals after Quader Mollah’s verdict, received police protection earlier even after occupying the Shahabagh intersection. Later, the it was divided and now garners little public support despite strong media connections and regular media coverage. [3] [4] [5]

Daylong strike throughout Bangladesh 


People from around Bangladesh observed a general strike in protest of the unjust verdict against Allama Delwar Hossain Sayedee. these are pictures from all over Bangladesh, showing protesters in action within the first 24 hours of the 48 hours strike called by Jamaat-e-Islami in protest of the unjust appeal verdict against Allama Sayedee.

References


1. Progress Bangladesh, 17.09.2014, Delwar Hussain Sayedee Death Verdict Commuted on Appeal to Imprisonment Until Death

2. Progress Bangladesh,17.09.2014, Reaction of Sayedee’s son Masood to Appeal Verdict

3. UNB, 17.09.2014, Imran Sarker among 4 hurt in police action

4. News21BD, 17.09.2014, Protesters back to Gonojagoron Mancha at Shahbagh

5. Time News BD, 17.09.2014, গণজাগরণ কর্মীদের গাড়ি ভাংচুর, পুলিশের জলকামান

6. Naya Diganta, 18.09.2014, জামায়াত-শিবিরের বিক্ষোভ, সংঘর্ষ, পুলিশের অভিযান আহত ১০৫ : গ্রেফতার ২৪২