Bangladesh Sentences Islamist Leader to Death for War Crimes

Thursday, 09 May 2013 04:56 AM

 

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal convicted and sentenced an Islamist party leader to death on Thursday, raising fears of a repeat of clashes between police and protesters after fellow suspects were condemned to death earlier this year.

Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, 59, assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was found guilty on charges of genocide and torture of unarmed civilians during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan, lawyers and tribunal officials said.

Kamaruzzaman's verdict was the fourth reached by the tribunal, with more to come, and drew a huge crowd outside the court amid tight security.

Bangladesh, which is also reeling from a garment factory collapse that killed more than 900 people, has been rocked by protests and counter-protests related to the complex legacy of the independence war in recent months.

The protests are one of the main challenges facing the government of Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, who opened an inquiry into abuses committed during the war in 2010.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule of India in 1947. But the country, then known as East Pakistan, won independence with India's help in December 1971 following the nine-month war against then West Pakistan.

The recent unrest began in January when the tribunal sentenced to death in absentia a leader of Jamaat, Bangladesh's main Muslim party.

Jamaat opposed Bangladeshi independence from Pakistan but denies accusations that some of its leaders committed murder, rape, and torture during the conflict.

More than 100 people have been killed in the clashes this year, most of them Islamist party activists and members of the security forces.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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