Bangladesh Sentences Former Islamist Leader for War Crimes
A special court in Bangladesh set up to prosecute war criminals from the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan has sentences a 90 year old Islamist leader to 90 years in prison.
Ghulam Azam was the wartime leader of the Jamaat e-Islami (the top Islamist party in Bangladesh), and is still considered to be the organisations spiritual leader. The court found Azam guilty of planning conspiring, incitement and complicity in murder during the war which left three million dead.
According to junior Attorney General M.K. Rahman “the tribunal observed that he deserved the death penalty,”, but this was reduced to 9- years in prison because of Azam’s old age and ill health.
Azam is the fifth person convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal. The very existence of this court is highly controversial, as Jamaat e-Islami claims that its cases are political motivated and are aimed at removing the organisations leadership.
Even before Ghulam Azam was sentenced, violent reactions had reupted in cities across Bangladesh. At least two people have been killed following clashes between Islamists and security forces, which saw paramilitary troops firing rubber bullets and live ammunition at crowds.
In the northwestern town of Shibgani Jamaat supporters threw homemade explosive devices. Troops responded with live ammunition, killing one person.
In the southwest of the country a local official from the ruling party was beaten to death by Jamaat supporters.
In the cities of Bogra, Rajshahi and Comilla police fired rubber bullets at rioting protesters.
But Islamist were not the only ones who were unhappy with the sentence. In the central square of the capital Dhaka thousands of secular protesters have gathered to protest against a sentence which they view as too lenient.