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B'desh SC wraps up death penalty review for war crimes suspect

April 16, 2014 20:23 IST

Bangladesh's supreme court on Wednesday wrapped up the appeal hearing against the judgment of a special tribunal that had sentenced to death a key 1971 war crimes suspect with the final verdict due any day now.

"The date of the verdict is (hereby) kept on Curia Advisari Vult," which means the verdict would be delivered any day, chief justice Muzammel Hossain declared in the open court as he wrapped up the hearing on appeal by the accused Delwar Hossain Sayeedi.

Experts said the legal term meant the court was yet to take any decision on the verdict and the judges would like to take time for deliberations. Ahead of closing the hearing the five-judge apex court rejected two nearly identical petitions by the prosecution and defence lawyers seeking to search out an old case document against Sayeedi, a leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Emerging from the courtroom, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told newsmen that the state believed "we could prove the allegations" and expected the apex court to uphold the tribunal verdict for the accused.

Chief defence counsel Khondker Mahbubuddin, on the other hand, claimed they successfully pointed out that a wrong man was tried and sentenced to death as another person with Sayeedi's name had actually carried out the atrocities.

The defence had raised the same argument during Sayeedi's trial at the International Crimes Tribunal but it rejected the claim as baseless and sentenced him to death on February 28, 2013 for "crimes against humanity" for siding with Pakistani troops during Bangladesh's 1971 liberation war.

The tribunal found valid eight of the 20 charges, including mass killing, arson, looting and forcefully converting non-Muslims to Islam, against the 73-year-old Islamist leader, a former lawmaker and orator.

On March 28 last year, Sayeedi filed an appeal with the SC seeking acquittal from all the charges. The same day, the government submitted a separate appeal to it, demanding capital punishment on all eight charges.

But the verdict sparked nationwide violence killing at least 32 people within hours of the judgement and Bangladesh in subsequent weeks witnessed protracted unrest that left over 100 people dead.

Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
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