‘Bangladesh war crimes verdict based on flawed trial’

New York, March 23 (IANS) Bangladeshi authorities should immediately set aside the death penalty against Mir Qasem Ali, a senior member of the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islaami, and order a new trial that meets international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction against Ali despite earlier statements in court by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, criticizing the attorney general, prosecutors and investigators for producing insufficient evidence in the trial court.

According to credible, detailed notes from the hearing in the Supreme Court, he said to the prosecutors: “What prevented the investigation agency to produce sufficient witnesses to prove the charges? … The prosecution and the investigation agency need to produce sufficient evidence to support a conviction… We feel really ashamed when we read the prosecution evidence.”

The attorney general, Mahbubey Alam, in turn was quoted saying: “The Supreme Court observed that a huge amount of money is being spent on the prosecutors and investigators, but they did not handle and investigate the cases properly.”

Human Rights Watch said: “Convictions can only be upheld when there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, yet in this case there are grave doubts about the evidence after the court so strongly criticized the prosecution. In death penalty cases, the authorities must adhere to the highest standards.”

Ali was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2014, by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) on 10 out of 14 counts of abduction, torture, and confinement as crimes against humanity.

For these crimes, he was sentenced to 72 years in prison. Ali was also convicted on two further counts of murder, in one case of two adults and in the other of a child. He was sentenced to death for the murders.

On March 8, 2016, the Appellate Division of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court set aside three of the abduction and torture convictions. It also acquitted Ali of the murder of the two adults. However, it upheld the conviction and death penalty sentence against Ali for the murder of the child during the war.

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