Bangladesh Opposition Lawmaker Sentenced to Death for War Crimes
Bangladesh sentenced a senior opposition lawmaker to death for war crimes in 1971, the first conviction of a member of parliament and the seventh in the three-year-old trials that have sparked street violence.
Lawmaker Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, whose father led a party that backed Pakistan during the country’s independence struggle, was found guilty of nine charges of genocide, including the killing of Hindus, prosecutor Syed Haider Ali told reporters in Dhaka today. His Bangladesh Nationalist Party holds 32 of 300 directly elected seats in Parliament.
“Those who were affected by the war crimes 42 years ago have received justice,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters after the verdict. “It was an appropriate punishment.”
The death sentence risks a renewal of clashes that killed more than 150 people this year following previous convictions. The tribunal set up in 2010 has reopened wounds that led to the country’s founding four decades ago, when about three million people died in a nationalist uprising against Pakistani troops.
“We did not get justice,” Hummam Quader Chowdhury, son of Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, told reporters. The family plans to appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court, he said.
Chowdhury had faced 23 charges, including one in which he was accused of leading an armed group that raided Hindu neighborhoods and killed a group of 32 civilians in April 1971.
The tribunal was created after a 14-party alliance that campaigned for trials won national elections in 2008. Of seven people convicted so far, six received death sentences, while another received life in prison.
Earlier this month, Abdul Quader Mollah, Jamaat-e-Islami’s assistant secretary-general, received a death sentence after appealing an earlier life sentence.
Another eight people face charges, mostly members of Jamaat-e-Islami, that had supported Pakistan’s rule. Jamaat is aligned with Chowdury’s BNP. A court last month banned Jamaat-e-Islami from standing in next year’s election in response to a 2009 petition claiming that the party doesn’t believe in democracy or Bangladesh’s sovereignty.
As British colonial rule ended in South Asia in 1947, East and West Pakistan were separated by 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of Indian territory. Pakistani troops in 1971 attempted to quell a nationalist uprising in the east that was triggered by the jailing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had led his Awami League to victory in elections.
The war ended nine months later with the creation of Bangladesh after Indian forces helped defeat Pakistan’s army. Jamaat-e-Islami supported staying with Pakistan during the war, and several of its leaders are being tried by the tribunal on charges they collaborated with Pakistani forces.
More than 150 people were killed, including seven children, and at least 2,000 others were injured in clashes between security forces and supporters of Jamaat and another Islamic group from February to early May amid protests over the tribunal’s rulings, Human Rights Watch said. It interviewed 95 victims, witnesses, journalists, lawyers and human rights workers. Police officers were among those who died, it found.
To contact the reporter on this story: Arun Devnath in Dhaka at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at email@example.com
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