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article imageBangladesh sentences former leader 90 years for war crimes

By Abdul Kuddus     Jul 15, 2013 in World
Dhaka - The sentencing of a top Islamist leader to 90 years in prison for war crimes committed during the Bangladesh 1971 war of independence triggered widespread protests in different parts of Bangladesh.
Violence broke out after the International Crimes Tribunal convicted Ghulam Azam, a high-profile Jamaat-e-Islami leader, of masterminding atrocities during the 1971 war of independence.
Reportedly, even before the verdict was read out, Jamaat-e-Islami supporters pelted stones and torched vehicles in Dhaka and other cities. Police fired rubber bullets to control the protesters.
At least five people have died and dozens injured in violent clashes according to reports.
Ghulam Azam was sentenced inside a packed courtroom in Dhaka. The 91-year-old former head of Jamaat-e-Islami party was brought to court in a wheelchair.
Azam was found guilty of inciting and planning war crimes during the 1971 war, when Bangladesh attained independence from Pakistan.
The tribunal found Azam guilty of 61 charges under conspiracy, incitement, planning, abetment and failure to prevent killing, according to reports.
Reportedly, the panel commuted the verdict from death sentence to a jail term considering the advanced age of the former leader.
According to prosecutors, Azam played a key role in establishing militia groups that killed and raped thousands of people. His defense lawyers said the charges were politically motivated.
Azam, who led Jamaat-e-Islami from 1969-2000, was opposed to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. He allegedly colluded with the Pakistani military in 1971, and played a key role in mobilizing the Razakars—an auxiliary force to the Pakistani army to eliminate Bangladeshi freedom fighters.
Reportedly the Pakistani army killed an estimated three million people and raped 200,000 women during the war with the support of Razakars.
Further, the Al Badr, a specialised militia of the Razakars allegedly executed scores of Bangladeshi intellectuals, days before Pakistani forces were defeated by Indian and Bangladeshi forces on 16 December, 1971.
With the setting up of the war crimes tribunal in January 2010 by the ruling Awami-League, Ghulam Azam is the fifth senior leader from the Jamaat-e-Islami party who was convicted.
Reportedly, the trials have triggered violent clashes that killed more than 100 people since January. The sentencing of the cleric has raised fears of another round of violence in Bangladesh.
Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami party accuse Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of using the tribunals to weaken the opposition ahead of general elections next year.
Sheikh Hasina justified the war crime tribunal as an attempt to find justice for thousands of people who were killed during the country’s struggle for independence.
In response to the sentencing, Jamaat, Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party and a key ally of the opposition Bangladesh National Party, has called a nationwide strike to condemn the verdict.
More about Bangladesh Islamist leader sentenced 90 years for , Ghulam Azam sentenced to 90 years, War crimes, JamaateIslami, War tribunal
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