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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid