Saturday, April 11, 2015

Reflections on some court verdicts

An Egyptian court, dumped by international observers as Kangaroo court, has confirmed the death sentence on Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and 13 others for 'planning attacks' against the state.The court also jailed a US-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Soltan and 36 others for life.



Badie was sentenced in March and is embroiled in several other trials. The sentences are subject to appeal. The sentences are the final phase in the trial which saw Muslim Brotherhood leaders charged with encouraging members of the group to confront the state and spread chaos following the dispersal of protests in 2013.

 
Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in a crackdown on the Brotherhood following the removal of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 in a military coup. 


Such verdicts in Sisi's Egypt is predictable given that the judges are all Mubarak-era anti-Brotherhood zealots. Sisi, the neo-Pharaoh of Egypt, has established a Supreme Council for Legislative Reform by decree, which will be able to draft new laws and leave the parliament to do the rubber-stamping. He has also tightened control over religion and education. Only preachers licensed by al-Azhar, one of the main centres of Sunni Muslim learning, will be allowed to deliver sermons, and Sisi will personally appoint university presidents and deans.
Repression of the Muslim Brotherhood continues, with over a thousand members sentenced to death by the courts in summary trials. Young people who defy the anti-protest law brought in last December have been given tough sentences. So have al-Jazeera journalists accused of fabricating stories. Even street vendors and people who litter have been targeted, in an effort to clean up the cities. 
Egyptian economy has not recovered in spite of the billions of dollars that have poured in from countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE, which helped to bring down the Morsi government. 
Egyptians are an unfortunate people whose control by the military thugs seems a complete one with little hope of every loosening that grip. As is evident, with foreign masters and advisers, Sisi is cementing the grips by closing any loopholes. 
Sadly, the trouble faced by Egyptians owes it to themselves. They did not learn to be patient in a new democracy and hoped for a miracle in the short-lived Morsi-era to solve all their decades-old problems after the fall of Mubarak too fast. With international conspiracy against him, Morsi was not able to fix those problems fast enough. But the most important failure seemed to be his party's inability to change the Mubarak-era bureaucrats and judges, and gain the support within the media. And now the toll is paid by members of his party who are facing death and long sentences in kangaroo courts of Sisi's Egypt.
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M. Kamaruzzaman was hanged today at Dhaka Central Jail, Dhaka, Bangladesh (10 p.m. Saturday local time) for committing war crimes in 1971. He was a student member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a party that opposed independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan. From the published reports it suggests that he was only 19 years old when Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation after 9-month long liberation war, meaning that he was only a teenager when the civil war brewed into a full-blown liberation war in what was once East Pakistan. It is alleged that he was the regional commander of Al-Badr, which had sided with the Pakistani forces and committed war crimes against the local Bengalis. It is also said that he was the chief of the Mymensingh unit of JI’s student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha during the liberation war.

The government case says that on Jun 25, 1971, Kamaruzzaman led the Pakistan Army to the Sohagpur village in Sherpur area of Mymensingh district, killing 120 men and raping their women.

After completing his HSC examination in 1972, Mr. Kamaruzzaman entered Dhaka University as a freshman student in the Department of Journalism. He graduated with a master's degree in 1975 and later served as the President of JI's student affiliate Islami Chhatra Shibir between 1978 and 1979, according to his official profile on the party's website. It is said that he became a full Jamaat member (Rukun) in 1979.
 In 1980, he joined as Executive Editor of monthly Dhaka Digest. A year later, he edited weekly 'Sonar Bangla'. He also worked for Jamaat’s mouthpiece daily 'Sangram' as Executive Editor. He was the senior assistant secretary general of the JI before being charged with war crimes and imprisoned. 
War crimes are serious matters and should not be taken lightly. How credible is the government claim that Kamaruzzaman had committed such war crimes when he was merely a 18-19 year old kid? At such a young age, people are often led and they don't lead. If he was such a dreaded monster in 1971, how could he have survived in the aftermath of the liberation war when tempers ran very high and there were many with known war crimes who were lynched to death in mob-directed violence? What surprises me is to read that he later joined Dhaka University as a student, which was the hotbed of revolutionary activities before and after 1971. How could such a person, now declared to have committed worse crimes than the Nazis, go scotch free? Was he truly the monster that the government case showed and proved in the tribunal or was he a victim of politics? 

I guess, like many non-partisans, I am at a loss to understand the puzzle. And my reflection is based on simple observation of these inconsistencies without actually reading the case proceedings against him. Am I missing something? 

A special tribunal on May 9, 2013, sentenced Kamaruzzaman to death for his alleged atrocities during the Liberation War. A year later, the Appellate Division confirmed the verdict, calling him a ‘beast’, and observed his crimes were “worse than the Nazis”. Last Monday, Chief Justice SK Sinha-led bench threw out his plea for a review of the death penalty. A copy of the final verdict reached the jail on April 8 and was read out to him. The only thing blocking his execution was the issue of presidential mercy.
Two district magistrates met him on Friday to ask him if he would seek pardon. He had maintained his innocence throughout the process and refused to seek pardon, which would have required him to confess to such war crimes. And he was hanged to death today.

The U.S. State Department, which has long objected to the proceedings of the international criminal court in Bangladesh saying that it lacks transparency and fairness in such war crimes trials, condemned Kamaruzzaman's hanging. 

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Last week, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty of all the charges over his role in the Boston bombing.
Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when the bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon in April 2013. It was an insane act of madness by Dzokhar's older brother who was upset being discriminated and had difficulty fitting into his adopted home, the USA. The younger Dzhokhar was raised by his older brother who had self-radicalized. It is not difficult to presume that he was a reluctant criminal who could not say 'no' to his dominating brother. 
Dzokhar was a teenager two years ago when the crime occurred. He was loved by all his friends and teachers. None of them ever could place him committing such a horrendous crime. And yet he has now been found guilty. The jury will now decide whether he receives a life sentence or the death penalty.
Human beings are complex beings. No one can predict who is going to behave in what way under varying circumstances. Some have the mental capacity to endure discrimination and take a nonchalant attitude while others would react for a fraction of such problems. 
Our world is in serious disorder. As mentioned above, the USA government is very critical of the verdicts in Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal and wanted Bangladesh government to spare the lives of individuals like Kamaruzzaman and others who were found guilty of war crimes during 1971 liberation war. However, when it comes to punishing kids like Dzokhar who personally has not killed anyone (except that he ran away with his older brother carrying a bag and riding with him during the latter's fatal shootout with the police), the same government is silent and wants him dead by lethal injection. The same government has violated its own laws against the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay prison and scores of other prisons around the globe. Such dubious actions don't ease anyone's pains and nor do they help to put us on a clear path that is not controversial. 
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Just my two cents on a difficult subject!

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