Earlier in May 2020, Bangladeshi social media posts were replete with posts demanding the release of one Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, a Jamaat leader who is convicted of committing numerous war crimes in the 1971 Bangladesh war that led to the partition of East and West Pakistan.
Steady support is being garnered for the Islamist leader, notably on the social media websites, where his supporters are demanding the release of Sayeedi, currently facing life imprisonment after being found guilty of genocide, killing and rape during the 1971 independence war in Bangladesh.
Several Twitter users demanded the release of the Islamist leader, imprisoned for his war crimes against the pro-Bangladeshi supporters during the 1970 Bangladesh liberation war.
Some of the Bangladeshi Twitter users, while demanding his release even claimed that Sayeedi has been convicted of trumped-up charges.
How long will #Allama_Delawar_Hossain_Sayedee be imprisoned in a false and fabricated case? I demand immediate release of the great Islamic orator Allama Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. #FreeSayedee #Bangladesh pic.twitter.com/Yxzbkilw54— Ahsan Kabir (@AKM_Shibly) May 3, 2020
While a section of Bangladeshi social media users has been involved in a campaign to seek the release of Sayeedi, it is important to reflect upon the antecedents of the man in question, who has been accused and convicted in connection with the war crimes that were meted out on the people of East Pakistan who supported the idea of an independent sovreign nation of Bangladesh. Sayeedi was a member of the private militia ‘Razakars’, raised by the Pakistani Army as a part of its crackdown against the pro-Bangladeshi supporters.
Sayeedi, a part of private militia ‘Razakar’ raised by Pakistani Army
In the run-up to the liberation war for Bangladesh, the army of West Pakistan, which considered Bengali speaking East Pakistanis as inferior and impure, raised a private militia called “Razakars“, comprising the members of Army personnel, Bihari Muslim migrants and anti-Bangladesh and pro-Pakistan Bengalis and Urdu-speaking migrants who lived in Bangladesh at the time.
The militia was raised by the Pakistani Army to forcibly quell the mounting rebellion by the East Pakistan’s inhabitants for the independence of the region from the illegitimate West Pakistani government. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was one of the members of the ‘Razakars’ tasked with the responsibility of using violence and force to stamp out the opposition staged by the pro-Bangladeshi supporters.
The Razakars, under the auspices of the Pakistani Army and the Provincial Government, wreaked havoc on the pro-Bangladeshis seeking a nation free from Pakistani rule. In doing so, they mercilessly murdered, raped and tortured millions of Hindus and protesters who opposed to the sovereignty of West Pakistan over East(now Bangladesh). It is estimated that Pakistani Army and its supporting Razakar militia killed between 300,000 to 3,000,000 people and raped 200,000–400,000 Bangladeshi women in an organised genocidal rape campaign.
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi convicted of war crimes in 1971 Bangladesh liberation war
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the top Jamaat-e-Islami leader, presided over the genocide of Hindus and pro-Bangladeshi supporters during the 1971 war. The International Crimes Tribunal(ICT) in 2013 charged him of 20 counts including guilty of charges including mass murder, torture, forcefully converting Hindus to Islam and brutal rapes of women. Of the 20 charges against him, Sayeedi was sentenced to death for two—the murders of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisabali, and for setting fire to Hindu households in Pirojpur in 1971.
In 1971, Razakars massacred 2.40 million Hindus. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was at the forefront of this genocide. After a long struggle, he was sent to prison in 2013. Now, fundamentalists are running a campaign for his release.pic.twitter.com/PshIkw5GOd— Upword (@upword_) September 15, 2020
The conviction of Sayeedi triggered a wave of violence across Bangladesh, with his vehemently protesting against the verdict and demanding his immediate release. Bangladeshi government had to call in paramilitary force to control to rampaging protesters, who were further agitated by the rumours that Sayeedi’s reflection was seen in the moon, thereby assuming his perceived innocence.
Supreme Court of Bangladesh commutes Sayeedi’s death sentence to life imprisonment
A year later his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The apex court sentenced Sayeedi to life imprisonment on 5 charges of the 20 framed against him. In another appeal verdict in a war crimes case, the top court announced the sentence of prison until death to Sayedee for three charges pertaining to the murder of Bisabali, arson in a Hindu neighbourhood and the abduction and rape of three sisters of Gauranga Saha.
Saha was a prosecution witness, who identified Sayeedi as a man who handed over his three sisters to the Pakistani Army, to be taken away as sex slaves. They were returned after 3 days. Sayeedi was also sentenced to death for forcible conversions of 100-150 Hindus.
Since the verdict by the Supreme Court in 2014, Sayeedi’s ardent supporters have been trying to mount a campaign to seek the release of their leader by pressuring the Bangladeshi government. In 2017, two pleas were filed in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh seeking his acquittal, but the Chief Justice of Bangladesh dismissed the petitions. The state, which took more than 4 decades to punish the war criminals responsible for the grievous crimes against humanity, had sought a review to maintain the ICT’s verdict that sentenced Sayeedi to death. However, the court had upheld the life imprisonment sentence against the Jamaat leader.