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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid