News / Asia

Bangladesh Braces for Unrest as Judges Prepare War Crime Verdict

Jamaat-e-Islami activists march in Chittagong, Bangladesh, March 2, 2013, to protest war crimes' conviction of one of their leaders.
Jamaat-e-Islami activists march in Chittagong, Bangladesh, March 2, 2013, to protest war crimes' conviction of one of their leaders.
Reuters
A Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal is due to pronounce judgment on a top Islamist politician on Thursday, raising fears a guilty verdict could ignite a fresh round of clashes between members of his party and security forces.
       
Bangladesh, reeling from a factory collapse that killed more than 700 people two weeks ago, is navigating one of its most turbulent periods since independence as a series of political conflicts converge ahead of elections due early next year.
       
Protests over the war crimes trials are one of the main challenges facing the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened an inquiry into abuses committed during a 1971 war for independence from Pakistan in 2010.
       
The tribunals have angered Islamists who say they are a politically-motivated attempt to persecute the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami, the main Islamist party in Bangladesh and a key part of an opposition coalition.
       
Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The independence war claimed about three million lives. Thousands of women were raped.
       
Some factions in Bangladesh opposed the break with Pakistan, including Jamaat. Its leaders have denied involvement in abuses.
       
On Thursday, judges are due to hand down a verdict in the trial of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, a leader of Jamaat who is accused of involvement in the murder and torture of several civilians.
       
Syed Haider Ali, the lead government prosecutor, said he expected the court would sentence Kamaruzzaman to death.
       
"On the basis of our arguments we are hopeful of getting the highest punishment,'' Ali told reporters.
       
Kamaruzzaman was arrested in a separate criminal case in July, 2010, and was charged with war crimes the following month. He has pleaded not guilty through his lawyers.
       
Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to the tribunal since the first guilty verdict was delivered in January. Kamaruzzaman's judgment will be the fourth since the trials began.
       
The tribunal has been criticized by rights groups for failing to adhere to international standards. Human Rights Watch said lawyers, witnesses and investigators reported they had been threatened.
       
In a separate challenge to Hasina's government, tens of thousands of members of the hardline Islamist Hefajat-e-Islam movement massed in the capital Dhaka this week to demand the imposition of a new blasphemy law.
       
At least 20 people were killed in some of the worst violence seen in the city in decades when police used water cannons to disperse the gathering.
       
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition party, has also turned up the heat on Hasina's secular Awami League government by calling a series of strikes to demand she resign.
       
Bangladesh has been rocked by protests and counter-protests linked to the tribunal since January, when it handed down its first sentence by condemning an expelled Jamaat member to death. In the second case, a Jamaat leader was given life in jail.
       
About 60 people have been killed in protests since the tribunal's third conviction in March, when another member of Jamaat, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 73, was sentenced to death for abuses including murder and rape during the war.
       
Jamaat and the BNP both accuse the prime minister of using the tribunal to persecute them. The government denies that and says justice must be served.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs