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Bangladesh Death Sentence Sparks Violence; 27 Dead

  • VOA News

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, stand during a clash with police in Chittagong, Feb. 28, 2013.

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, stand during a clash with police in Chittagong, Feb. 28, 2013.

A policeman uses a baton on an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, during a clash at Jatrabari in Dhaka, Feb. 28, 2013.

A policeman uses a baton on an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, during a clash at Jatrabari in Dhaka, Feb. 28, 2013.

At least 27 people have been killed in Bangladesh in a wave of violence sparked by a special tribunal's decision to sentence a top Islamist opposition leader to death.

Many of the victims were shot Thursday in clashes between security forces and supporters of Delwar Hossain Sayedee. He was found guilty of crimes, including mass killings and rape, committed during the 1971 war against Pakistan for Bangladesh's independence.

Thursday's violence occurred during a nationwide shutdown called by Sayedee's party, Jamaat-e-Islami, to protest his trial and demand he be freed.

A VOA reporter in Dhaka, Zahurul Alam, said two police officers were among the dead, and more than 200 people were wounded. He said Jamaat-e-Islami has called for another nationwide shutdown starting early Sunday.

"Jamaat has again called a 48-hour-long continuous countrywide shutdown from Sunday morning in protest of the verdict against Sayedee and the killing of his supporters by BGB [paramilitary forces] and police," said Alam.

Sayedee's lawyer has called the verdict unjust and vowed to appeal. Sayedee is the third Jamaat party member to be sentenced for war crimes since Bangladesh's war crimes tribunal was established in 2010.

The latest clashes brought the overall death toll to at least 38 since the first verdict was delivered in January.

On January 21, the tribunal sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death in absentia, finding him guilty of torture, rape and genocide. On February 5, it sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison on similar charges. At least eight more Jamaat members are still on trial.

Human rights groups have questioned the fairness of the trials, saying members of the defense have been unduly pressured.

Bangladesh fought a nine-month war against Pakistan in 1971 to obtain its independence. The government says 3 million people died in the violence, although other estimates give a lower death toll.
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