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War-time Terror of Chittagong to Hang

31 Jul 2015

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War-time terror of Chittagong Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will have to hang.

 On July 29, a four-member bench of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice upheld the verdict of death penalty rejecting his appeal against the verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1. The BNP leader from Chittagong filed the appeal on October 29, 2013 challenging the death sentence announced by ICT-1 on October 1, 2013. He was found guilty in nine charges, which included genocide, murder, torture and deportation. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will be the first BNP leader to be walking the gallows for atrocities committed by him during the liberation war.

 

During the trial it was described in excruciating details how Muslim League leader and former Pak Minister Fazlul Quader Chowdhury’s son Salauddin Quader Chowdhury killed Hindus and Awami League workers. ICT-1 sentenced him to death for ruthlessly killing Kundeshwari Oushadhalay owner Nutan Chandra Singha, genocide of Hindus at Sultanpur and Unasattarpara and murder of Hathazari Awami League leader and his son Sheikh Alamgir.

 

Despite being a staunch Pakistani agent who had opposed the liberation war tooth and nail, Salauddin remained a Minister and Adviser to Prime Minister after the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country. In both these capacities, he moved throughout the country in vehicles flying national flag. It is an irony that the Bangladesh national flag, for which thousands of freedom fighters had laid down their lives, adorned the vehicle that carried him. This is something shameful and never happened in any civilized country in the world.

 

Salauddin served as Cabinet Minister from 1985 to 1989 during Gen Ershad’s regime and joined BNP prior to 1996 parliamentary elections. In the BNP-Jamaat  Government formed in 2001 he was made Adviser to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Through his family’s close links with the Muslim League and Pakistani political leaders he established a close nexus with the Pak Army and the ISI. The BNP-Jamaat Government made an abortive move to make him Secretary General of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

 

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury patronizes a well-organized armed cadres who indulge in criminal activities in Rauzan and Chittagong area and enjoy his protection.  72 criminal cases were pending against him in various police stations in Chittagong, Rauzan, Rangunia, Hathazari and Fatikchari. But he was never arrested or asked to appear before any court in connection with these criminal cases. Such was his clout. He was arrested for the first time by the army-backed Caretaker Government that had launched a virtual crusade against crimes and corruption in 2007.

 

Pakistan brought tremendous pressure on Dhaka to secure Salauddin’s release from jail. Salauddin’s wife even made several rounds of Pakistan and pleaded with the high and mighty in Pak establishment and the ISI to secure her husband’s release. It will not be out of place here to mention that when the Bangladesh Army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed, who was the main force behind the caretaker Government, visited Pakistan in 2008, his interlocutors explicitly enquired about Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and not about Sheikh Hasina or BNP chief Khaleda Zia who were also in jail during this time.

 

The Supreme Court judgment has been greeted with huge relief in and outside the court. Eminent personalities including freedom fighters have expressed satisfaction over the verdict upholding death penalty of Salauddin. Terming the verdict as ground-breaking, veteran journalist and Sector Commanders Forum leader Haroon Habib said, “People’s expectation has been met through this verdict. Salauddin played a monstrous role in 1971. Victims of his crimes have finally got justice.” Barrister Tureen Afroz, ICT prosecutor, said, “Truth has been established today”. Veteran freedom fighter and cultural activist M Hamid hailed the verdict saying, “He not only committed crimes against humanity, Salauddin on different occasions made derogatory remarks about our beloved national anthem, Liberation War, and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”.

 

The 66-year old Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will be hanged if the case is not reviewed by the Supreme Court that has already turned down his appeal, or, if he does not get Presidential clemency. The death sentence given by ICT-1 and upheld by Supreme Court has served a notice to other war criminals now on death row or under trial that law will not spare them. It is the fifth verdict on appeal against the ICT verdict in cases over the crimes committed during the liberation war.

 

After more than four decades of waiting for justice, the people of Bangladesh finally got an opportunity to vindicate their grievances for the wrongs done to millions of freedom fighters and freedom loving people. Although it has not been possible to round up all the culprits responsible for the atrocities perpetrated in 1971, it is nonetheless admirable that sincere efforts are being made to catch hold of the kingpins who were identified with commission of these crimes, and the nation is hoping that justice will be finally done to the victims of atrocities.




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