Central & South Asia

New clashes erupt in Bangladesh

At least 44 killed over two days in the wake of death sentence to Jamaat-e-Islami leader for war crimes.
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2013 18:35
About 10,000 policemen were on patrol and the government deployed border guards as reinforcement [AP]

Fresh clashes have resulted in more deaths in Bangladesh during violence in response to the death sentence handed to an opposition leader.

Police say that at least 44 people have now been killed as clashes continued into a second day on Friday.

Riots erupted in the capital city of Dhaka when Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death.

Dozens Sayedee supporters smashed several vehicles in Dhaka's central Malibagh district, witnesses said. Baton-wielding police dispersed the protesters.

Security was tightened around thousands of mosques across the Muslim-majority nation, with border guards deployed in major cities.

About 10,000 policemen were on patrol and the government deployed border guards as reinforcement to prevent more violence.

"We must stay alert. Jamaat and its allies are trying to plunge the nation into anarchy. We will not allow them to destroy democracy."

-Quamrul Islam, junior law minister

The Jamaat-e-Islami, country's largest Islamic party, had called on supporters to converge on the country's mosques on Friday to offer a special mass prayer for those killed during the violence.

"We must stay alert. Jamaat and its allies are trying to plunge the nation into anarchy," Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam said. "We will not allow them to destroy democracy."

In Thursday's violence, more than 300 were injured across the country after Jamaat's vice president Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 73, was sentenced to death for war crimes committed during the 1971 independence war.

Sayedee was found guilty of murder, religious persecution and rape by a war crimes tribunal hearing cases dating back to the liberation war against Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami backed Pakistan during the independence war but denies their supporters were involved in atrocities.

He was the third person to be convicted by the tribunal whose previous verdicts have also been met with outrage from party supporters who say the process is more about score settling than delivering justice.

The latest death on Friday brought the overall toll to 51 since the tribunal delivered its first verdict on January 21.

Secular protests

Earlier this month, the tribunal sentenced Abdul Qader Molla, Jamaat's assistant secretary-general, to life imprisonment.

Molla's verdict enraged secular protesters, tens of thousands of whom have since poured onto Dhaka's Shahbag Square to reject the "lighter sentence" and demand the execution of Jamaat leaders.

Another Jamaat leader, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, was sentenced to death in absentia last month.

Seven other top leaders of Jamaat are on trial for their alleged role in the atrocities during the liberation war.

Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the Bangladesh prime minister, set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses during the independence war which, by many accounts, claimed about three million lives and during which thousands of Bengali women were raped.

The tribunal, a domestic body with no international oversight, has been criticised by the opposition as targeting its members.

But the scale of recent secular protests show a large section of Bangladeshis support moves to punish those linked to atrocities during the liberation war.


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