News / Asia

Bangladesh Opposition Leader Sentenced to Death for War Crimes

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior opposition leader, waves to the media after he arrives at the war crime tribunal, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 1, 2013.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior opposition leader, waves to the media after he arrives at the war crime tribunal, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 1, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
A war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has handed the death penalty to a senior member and lawmaker from the main opposition party for his role in the country’s 1971 war of independence. It is the seventh verdict announced against opposition leaders by the controversial court and has raised fears of more political violence in the country.
 
Security was tight in the packed Dhaka courtroom where Bangladesh Nationalist party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was handed the death penalty for genocide, abduction and torture, among other charges.
 
He is the first sitting member of parliament and the first leader of the main opposition BNP to be sentenced in connection with the mass killings and other crimes that took place in 1971, when the country broke free of Pakistan after a bloody struggle.

  • People shout slogans as they celebrate the death sentence of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Dhaka, Oct. 1, 2013.
  • Activists celebrate the death sentence of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Dhaka, Oct. 1, 2013.
  • Farhat Quader Chowdhury, the wife of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, speaks to the media after her husband was sentenced to death, Dhaka, Oct. 1, 2013.
  • Salaudin Quader Chowdhury waves on his way into court, Dhaka, Oct. 1, 2013. 
  • Police stand guard in front of the war crime tribunal as the court sentences Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Dhaka, Oct. 1, 2013.

After the sentence was read out, Chowdhury accused the government of orchestrating the verdict, saying “it came from the Law Ministry. It has been available on the Internet since yesterday.”

Ataur Rahman, a political professor at Dhaka University, said the 64-year-old Chowdhury is an influential leader from a well connected political family. “He has been a member of parliament for 37 years. He is popular and powerful, and popularity and power in Bangladesh go hand in hand.”

Troops deployed

Fearing violence, the government deployed troops in Chittagong, Chowdhury’s home district.

The government opened the inquiry against nine senior opposition leaders nearly 40 years after the country’s independence struggle, during which some local leaders were accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces. Seven are Islamists from the Jamaat-e-Islami. Two are from the BNP.  

Both parties denounce the trials as politically motivated and say they are an effort to decimate the opposition. The trials have triggered violent street protests since the tribunal began handing down the verdicts earlier this year. At least 100 people have been killed.

Analysts say the trials have deepened divisions in a country which is deeply politically polarized. They say both the BNP and the Jamaat-e -Islami are likely to join hands to create a new momentum against the government, which has to hold elections by January next year.
 
Political commentator Rahman said there also is a measure of public opposition to the trials. “Even the saner elements within the society think that this should be as [a] symbolic verdict. This capital punishment inspire a lot of negativity and also people are thinking that the government is trying to reap the political dividend out of this whole process of trial.”
 
The government says the trials will heal the wounds of the 1971 war. Human rights groups say the war crimes tribunal does not meet international standards.

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Comments
     
by: Rahi from: Toronto
October 03, 2013 7:40 PM
While the founder of the Bangladesh had released all Pakistani military officers (around 200) named to be trialed for war crimes after Shemla Agreement in 1972(Among Bangladesh, India and Pakistan). Now the real military personal were forgiven and after 40 yrs civilians are at target. This will creat alot of problems internally in Bangladeshi society and politics. Better to follow their founder, Sheikh Mubeebur Rahman`s policy who released all prisoners (96,000) at that time. God Bless Bangla Desh and its people.

by: Ased from: US
October 02, 2013 9:48 PM
Well, I have been following up on this War Tribunal in Bangladesh which seems to be designed to get rid of all opposition. The man concerned here was at that time in what was West Pakistan and 100s of affidavits from recognizable and esteemed individuals were rejected, 100s who were to come to testify were not allowed visa and 100s of defense witnesses were not allowed in. .. Its pathetic that the guilty verdict was already online (2 days in advance, minor calculating mistake) while the court was still in session.. That should be enough for anyone without bias to know what really is going on.

by: KARUNA from: COIMBATORE
October 01, 2013 10:41 AM
HEADING A VIOLENT GROUP PROTECT THE WAR-CRIMINALS AND ALSO MAKE THEM LAW MAKERS FOR DECADES WITHOUT LET UP. ONE CAN NOW UNDERSTAND THAT SINGAPORE-FOUNDER DECLARED TO THE WORLD THAT RAJABAKSHE A SINHALA TERRORIST AND HRNCE BUTCHERED THE MINORITIES NUMBERINGMORE THAN 1 LAC-ALL WOMEN,CHILDREN,AND THE OLD. THE UN HAD FAILED TO STOP SUCH LARGE KILLING AS REPORTED BY BAN-KI-MOON. NOWUN SHOULD FOLLOW THE FOOT STEPS OF BANGLADESH IN HANGING THE WAR CRIMINALS IN SRILANKA EARLY.

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