News / Asia

Bangladesh Sentences Islamist Leader for War Crimes

Bangladesh's Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami former chief Ghulam Azam, on wheelchair, is escorted by security people to a court in Dhaka, July 15, 2013.
Bangladesh's Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami former chief Ghulam Azam, on wheelchair, is escorted by security people to a court in Dhaka, July 15, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
In Bangladesh, a controversial war crimes court has sentenced a top Islamist leader to 90 years in prison for his role in atrocities committed during the country’s war of independence. The sentencing of 90-year-old Ghulam Azam has triggered violent clashes in which two people have died and several have been injured.     

The sentence was handed down Monday to the former head of Jamaat-e-Islami party, Ghulam Azam, in a packed courtroom in Dhaka. Azam, brought to court in a wheelchair, was found guilty of several crimes including inciting and planning war crimes in 1971, when Bangladesh broke free of Pakistan.

Prosecutors said he played a key role in setting up militia groups that killed and raped thousands of people. His defense lawyers said the charges were politically motivated.   

Clashes erupted even before the verdict was read out as Jamaat-e-Islami activists threw stones and torched vehicles in Dhaka and other cities. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse protestors. Several people were injured in the violence which began on Sunday.

Ghulam Azam is the fifth leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party to be sentenced since January by the war crimes tribunal, set up by the Awami-League led government in 2010. The trials have triggered violence that has left more than 100 people dead since January.

Professor Ataur Rahman at Dhaka University said Azam’s sentence could spark another round of deadly violence in the country.

“They will be on streets now, they are very frustrated and very angry. There will be more confrontation on this issue, there will be a new wave of protesting against the government, so we are expecting crisis after crisis,” said the professor.  

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s critics said she was using the tribunals to settle political scores and weaken the opposition ahead of next year’s general elections. Hasina said the prosecutions were an attempt to find justice for the tens of thousands of people who died during the country’s struggle for independence forty years ago and their surviviors. 

Professor Rahman said the trials have alienated Islamic groups in the country from the ruling party. He said this was working to the advantage of the main opposition party.   
  
“The main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party is capitalizing on these problems of the government, and they are now mobilizing on the support of the Islamic groups as well as their own support. So this will be a tremendous pressure on the government,” he said.

Many middle class, secular people in Bangladesh support the trials and are calling for stiff punishments for the Islamist leaders. But experts said out in the countryside there was strong support for the Jamaat-e-Islami party and anger at the ongoing trials.

Human rights groups have also criticized the war crimes tribunal for falling short of international standards.


  • Members of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad shout slogans after a war crimes tribunal sentenced Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid to death, July 17, 2013.
  • A member of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad reacts after a war crimes tribunal sentenced Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid to death, July 17, 2013.
  • Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid waves from a police vehicle as he is transported to the central jail following his court verdict in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 17, 2013.
  • Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid  exits a court after the verdict of his trial in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 17, 2013.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More