Bangladesh oppn lead­ers to hang for war crimes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNAT IONAL -

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court yes­ter­day re­jected fi­nal ap­peals from two op­po­si­tion lead­ers against death sen­tences for atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted dur­ing the 1971 war of in­de­pen­dence, rul­ings that are likely to spark protests by their supporters. Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity Bangladesh has seen a rise in Is­lamist violence in re­cent months, with two for­eign­ers and four sec­u­lar writ­ers and a pub­lisher killed this year. Ali Ah­san Mo­ham­mad Mu­jahid, 67, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami party, was found guilty of five charges in­clud­ing tor­ture and the mur­ders of in­tel­lec­tu­als and mi­nor­ity Hin­dus while he com­manded Al Badr, an aux­il­iary force of the Pak­istani army, dur­ing the war to break away from Pak­istan.

Salahud­din Quader Chowd­hury, 66, for­mer leg­is­la­tor from for­mer premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP), was con­victed in Oc­to­ber 2013 on charges of geno­cide, re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion, ab­duc­tion and tor­ture dur­ing the war. “The en­tire na­tion is happy with the ver­dicts,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mah­bubey Alam told re­porters out­side the packed court amid tight se­cu­rity. The rul­ings mean the two could be hanged at any time un­less they seek mercy from the pres­i­dent.

Mu­jahid, so­cial wel­fare min­is­ter from 2001 to 2006 un­der Khaleda, would be the first for­mer min­is­ter and the third to be hanged while Chowd­hury would be the first BNP leader to go to the gal­lows un­less they are granted clemency. “It is up to them whether they want to seek mercy or not,” de­fense coun­sel Khandaker Mah­bub Hos­sain told re­porters. Just a few hours be­fore the rul­ings, an Ital­ian priest and doc­tor was wounded in the lat­est at­tack on for­eign­ers in Bangladesh. Is­lamic State mil­i­tants have claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for ear­lier at­tacks on for­eign­ers.

The gov­ern­ment, how­ever, re­jected Is­lamic State’s claim and blamed the grow­ing violence in Bangladesh on its do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents linked to Is­lamist par­ties. Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina opened an in­quiry in 2010 into abuses com­mit­ted dur­ing the war that Is­lamists and Khaleda’s party have de­nounced as part of a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated cam­paign to weaken the op­po­si­tion. Two Ja­maat lead­ers have been ex­e­cuted, one in De­cem­ber 2013 and an­other in April. They de­clined to seek clemency from the pres­i­dent.

Ex­tra se­cu­rity forces have been de­ployed in Dhaka and other parts of the coun­try as sim­i­lar judg­ments in the past trig­gered violence that left around 200 dead, mainly Ja­maat activists and po­lice. Ja­maat called a na­tion­wide strike on Thurs­day in protest. Hun­dreds of peo­ple came out on Dhaka’s streets to cheer the ver­dicts while there have been no re­ports of violence so far. The gov­ern­ment or­dered the block­ing of Face­book and on­line mes­sag­ing and call­ing ser­vices What­sApp and Viber for se­cu­rity rea­sons, a tele­com reg­u­la­tory of­fi­cial said.

US law­mak­ers and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups say the tri­bunal’s pro­ce­dures fall short of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. The Tom Lan­tos Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, set up by the US Congress, has ex­pressed “se­ri­ous con­cerns” over the death penal­ties. De­fense coun­sel for Mu­jahid were in­tim­i­dated and ar­rested, the com­mis­sion said this week cit­ing re­ports, while premier Hasina’s re­ported call to “try the war crim­i­nals quickly” raised con­cerns over whether due process had been ob­served.

No Peace With­out Jus­tice, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Italy, has called the tri­bunal’s pro­ceed­ings “a weapon of po­lit­i­cally in­flu­enced re­venge whose real aim is to tar­get the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion”. The gov­ern­ment de­nies the ac­cu­sa­tions. East Pak­istan broke away to be­come in­de­pen­dent Bangladesh af­ter the war be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan. About three mil­lion peo­ple were killed. — Reuters

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