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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More