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Bangladesh strike over war crimes verdict

Violent clashes erupt amid nationwide strike to protest against death sentence given to senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2013 14:10
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Schools and businesses across the country were closed as the strike was enforced [AFP]

Supporters of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party have clashed with police amid a nationwide strike called to protest against the death sentence awarded to one of its senior leaders for war crimes.

Wednesday’s unrest comes a day after the country’s Supreme Court sentenced Abdul Quader Molla, a senior member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, to death for committing crimes against humanity during the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

BDNews.com, a Dhaka-based news website, said one person had died in Noakhali in south-east of the country in the clashes.

Police confirmed one man had been killed when he was hit by a stone thrown by opposition supporters outside the capital.

A five-member panel headed by Chief Justice M Muzammel Hossain found him guilty of ordering the killing of a family of four during a Pakistani army crackdown in Dhaka in March 1971.

Molla and his supporters say the case against him is politically motivated. They have called for a two-day countrywide strike starting Wednesday.

In Dhaka, police detained at least five activists from the party when they clashed with security officials, Bangla Vision TV station said.

Schools and businesses were closed as the strike was enforced. Police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters who exploded homemade bombs, barricaded roads and threw stones at security officials in some towns.

Molla was previously convicted by a special war crimes tribunal in February and sentenced to life in prison. Both the defence and prosecution appealed that sentence to the Supreme Court.

Mixed reaction

Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said Tuesday's verdict was now final, with no option for another appeal through the courts. He said Molla's family can seek presidential clemency.

Defence counsel Abdur Razzaq said they were "stunned" by the court's decision to increase the sentence to death. The ruling Awami League and its allies welcomed the verdict.

Mollah's party is an ally of the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina formed the special tribunal in 2010 to try war crimes suspects.

An estimated 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped during the nine-month war.

Jamaat sided with Pakistan during the liberation struggle, but deny any role in the excesses.

Several other top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami have been convicted of similar charges.

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Source:
AP
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