News / Asia

Condemned Islamist Leader Wins 11th Hour Reprieve in Bangladesh

People chant slogans as they attend a sit-in protest at Shahbagh intersection demanding capital punishment for Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami senior leader Abdul Quader Mollah after he won a dramatic stay of execution before he was due to be hanged in Dhaka
People chant slogans as they attend a sit-in protest at Shahbagh intersection demanding capital punishment for Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami senior leader Abdul Quader Mollah after he won a dramatic stay of execution before he was due to be hanged in Dhaka
Reuters
An Islamist opposition leader in Bangladesh won a dramatic stay of execution on Tuesday hours before he was due to be hanged, according to his lawyers, allaying fears for now of a violent backlash less than a month before elections are due.

Abdul Quader Mollah, who was found guilty in February of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, was due to be hanged at one minute past midnight [1801 GMT] at Dhaka Central Jail.

Mollah's lawyers rushed to petition a judge, however, who agreed to delay the execution pending a hearing at 10.30 a.m.

Ending widespread confusion and conflicting reports, Additional Attorney General M. K. Rahman finally confirmed the two sides in the case would meet at the Supreme Court. He said there was no legal provision for the execution to be reviewed, because the trial had been held by a special war crimes tribunal and thus under separate law.

Mollah is assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is barred from contesting elections, but plays a key role in the opposition movement alongside the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Critics say Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, whose bitter rivalry with BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia has dominated politics for more than two decades, has used the tribunal to target Jamaat and weaken the opposition.

Human rights groups say the International Crimes Tribunal [ICT] procedures fall short of international standards.

Previous rulings by the ICT, set up in 2010 to investigate atrocities during the 1971 conflict, sparked deadly clashes across the impoverished nation of 160 million people.

Sporadic violence broke out on Tuesday, including in the southern district of Feni where one person was killed in clashes between police and Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat, police said.

Jamaat activists also torched vehicles and exploded crude bombs in Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong.

In Dhaka, hundreds of people who supported the tribunal angrily chanted for Mollah's execution to be carried out.

Election row

The latest bone of contention between Khaleda and Hasina is the election, which has been set for January 5, 2014.

The BNP wants to postpone the vote until after the formation of a caretaker cabinet that would remove Hasina from power, a demand the prime minister has so far resisted.

The announcement of plans for Mollah's execution initially dashed hopes the two sides could be edging toward a compromise.

Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, United Nations assistant secretary general for political affairs, has been in Bangladesh for the last four days seeking to break the deadlock.

Bangladesh has been racked by violent protests sparked by the tribunal's rulings, disagreements over the election, and anger among garment workers over low pay and poor conditions.

Nearly 200 people have been killed and thousands wounded in running street battles between protesters and police across Bangladesh, and many roads and railways remain blocked.

The unrest threatens the $22-billion garment export industry, the country's economic mainstay that employs some 4 million people, most of them women.

The industry, which supplies many Western brands, came under scrutiny when a building housing factories collapsed in April, killing more than 1,130 people.

Bangladesh was part of Pakistan when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned at the end of British rule in 1947; but it broke away from Pakistan in 1971 after a nine-month war.

Some factions in Bangladesh, including Jamaat, opposed the break with Pakistan, but the party denies accusations that its leaders committed murder, rape and torture.

About 3 million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women were raped.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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 Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
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 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 Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
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.

VOA Blogs