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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid