Bangladesh ex­e­cutes two oppn lead­ers for war crimes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW DELHI: Bangladesh ex­e­cuted two op­po­si­tion lead­ers yes­ter­day for war crimes dur­ing the coun­try’s 1971 in­de­pen­dence war, de­spite con­cerns that the le­gal pro­ceed­ings against them were flawed and threats of violence by their supporters. A re­porter was shot and wounded af­ter cov­er­ing the fu­neral of one of the men, though it was not clear who was re­spon­si­ble.

Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party leader Salahud­din Quader Chowd­hury and Ali Ah­san Mo­ham­mad Mu­jahid, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the main Is­lamist party Ja­maat-EIs­lami, were hanged at 12:55 am at Dhaka Cen­tral Jail in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, said Se­nior Jail Su­per­in­ten­dent Mo­ham­mad Ja­hangir Kabir.

A few hours af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion, a se­cu­rity de­tail es­corted am­bu­lances car­ry­ing the men’s bod­ies to their an­ces­tral homes, where their fam­i­lies were to per­form burial rit­u­als.

While there has been in­ter­na­tional con­cern over the le­gal process that led to the ex­e­cu­tions of the two men, most lead­ing Bangladeshi news­pa­pers and TV sta­tions sup­ported the hang­ings.

The lead­ing English-lan­guage Daily Star’s main re­port de­tailed the atroc­i­ties that Chowd­hury was con­victed of, and ran an­other story with the head­line, “Heart­less, hate­ful against Hin­dus ...” The sec­ond story nar­rated how mi­nor­ity Hin­dus were bru­tally at­tacked and killed and their homes torched un­der Chowd­hury’s lead­er­ship.

Two top Bangla-lan­guage dailies, Sa­makal and Pro­thom Alo, also pub­lished re­ports that demon­strated their sup­port for the tri­als and ex­e­cu­tions of the two lead­ers.

Bangladesh was bracing for up­heaval ahead of the hang­ings, with supporters of the two op­po­si­tion lead­ers threat­en­ing violence if they were ex­e­cuted. Ra­jib Sen, a re­porter for the Mo­hona TV sta­tion, was on his way back from Chowd­hury’s fu­neral in Chit­tagong dis­trict when his car was sprayed with bul­lets, the sta­tion said. Three other jour­nal­ists in the car es­caped un­hurt, and Sen was rushed to a hos­pi­tal in Chit­tagong. The TV sta­tion is owned by a mem­ber of the rul­ing Awami League party.

Lo­cal po­lice would not pro­vide any de­tails on the shoot­ing, and it was not im­me­di­ately clear who at­tacked the car or why. The Ja­maat-e-Is­lami party, which had al­ready had two other se­nior lead­ers ex­e­cuted for war crimes, is­sued a state­ment call­ing for a na­tion­wide gen­eral strike to­day. Chowd­hury was con­victed on charges of tor­ture, rape and geno­cide dur­ing Bangladesh’s in­de­pen­dence war against Pak­istan, while Mu­jahid was found guilty on charges of geno­cide, con­spir­acy in killing in­tel­lec­tu­als, tor­ture and ab­duc­tion.

On Wed­nes­day, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court up­held their death sen­tences, and on Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Mo­ham­mad Ab­dul Hamid re­jected a clemency ap­peal, clear­ing the way for the ex­e­cu­tions.

Ja­maat-e-Is­lami and the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party say the tri­als were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

More than 15 peo­ple, mostly lead­ers of Ja­maat-e-Is­lami, have been con­victed of war crimes. The party had cam­paigned openly against in­de­pen­dence for Bangladesh, which was part of Pak­istan un­til the 1971 war. Bangladesh’s gov­ern­ment says that Pak­istani sol­diers, aided by lo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors, killed 3 mil­lion peo­ple and raped 200,000 women dur­ing the war.

In a state­ment late Sun­day, Pak­istan’s for­eign min­istry said that the tri­als the two men faced were flawed, and that “Pak­istan is deeply dis­turbed” by the ex­e­cu­tions. Mu­jahid, 67, was the head of Is­lami Ch­ha­tra Sangha, then the stu­dent wing of Ja­maat-e-Is­lami . He was ac­cused of be­ing the mas­ter­mind be­hind the killing of in­tel­lec­tu­als, in­clud­ing teach­ers and jour­nal­ists, days be­fore the Pak­istani mil­i­tary sur­ren­dered to a joint force of free­dom fight­ers and In­dian army units on Dec. 16, 1971, af­ter a bloody nine-month war. Chowd­hury, 66, whose fa­ther was the speaker of Pak­istan’s Na­tional As­sem­bly and, at times, the act­ing pres­i­dent of Pak­istan, also ac­tively op­posed Bangladeshi in­de­pen­dence. He was ac­cused of car­ry­ing out war crimes, in­clud­ing killing more than 200 civil­ians, mostly mi­nor­ity Hin­dus, dur­ing the in­de­pen­dence war, ac­cord­ing to ev­i­dence pre­sented at the tri­bunal.

US law­mak­ers over­see­ing for­eign pol­icy de­scribed the war crimes tri­bunal, set up in 2013, as “very flawed” and a means of po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion. Lead­ers of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, in a let­ter sent Tues­day to the top US diplo­mat for South Asia, voiced con­cern that “demo­cratic space is shrink­ing” in Bangladesh amid “a grow­ing cli­mate of violence, fear and self-cen­sor­ship.”

Since Fe­bru­ary, four sec­u­lar blog­gers, a pub­lisher, and two for­eign­ers an Ital­ian aid worker and a Ja­panese agri­cul­ture re­searcher - have been killed in at­tacks linked to Is­lamic mil­i­tants.

The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for some of the at­tacks, but au­thor­i­ties say the Sunni ex­trem­ist group has no pres­ence in the coun­try. In­stead, Hasina has blamed the at­tacks on the op­po­si­tion, ac­cus­ing them of try­ing to desta­bi­lize the coun­try and halt the war crimes tri­als. Both op­po­si­tion par­ties de­nied the al­le­ga­tion. Such ex­trem­ist violence was once rare in Bangladesh, which is mostly Mus­lim but has a strong sec­u­lar tra­di­tion. — AP

DHAKA: Bangladeshi activists shout slogans cel­e­brat­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of two war crim­i­nals Ali Ah­san Mo­ham­mad Mu­jahid of Ja­maat-e-Is­lami and Salahud­din Quader Chowd­hury of the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party at the Cen­tral Jail in Dhaka yes­ter­day. — AP

KUALA LUMPUR: United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon at­tends the 10th East-Asia meet­ing dur­ing the 27th As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit at the Kuala Lumpur Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Kuala Lumpur yes­ter­day. — AFP

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