Bangladesh Islamist to hang for genocide

2013-05-09 15:03
Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, sits next to a police officer as he leaves court in Dhaka. (AFP)

Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, sits next to a police officer as he leaves court in Dhaka. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dhaka - A war crimes court sentenced a top Bangladeshi Islamist to death on Thursday for masterminding the slaughter of at least 120 farmers in one of the bloodiest single episodes of the 1971 independence war.

In a ruling likely to further fuel tensions between the secular government and religious hardliners, a special tribunal found Mohammad Kamaruzzaman guilty of genocide, torture, abduction and crimes against humanity.

"He is be hanged by the neck till death," presiding judge Obaidul Hassan told a packed courtroom in the capital Dhaka.

The 61-year-old Kamaruzzaman, who is the assistant secretary general of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, was the fourth person to be convicted by the much-criticised International Crimes Tribunal and the third senior politician.

As the verdict was announced, he could be heard condemning it as the "wrong judgement" from his seat in the dock.

Hundreds of secular protesters who had gathered at a central Dhaka intersection for news of the verdict greeted the announcement with loud cheers.

Village of the Widows

"Because of his heinous role, many people were murdered and many women were raped," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said outside the courthouse.

"The nation has got justice today."

Prosecutors said Kamaruzzaman was a "chief organiser" of Al Badr, a notorious pro-Pakistani militia accused of killing thousands of people in the nine-month war which saw what was then East Pakistan split from the regime in Islamabad.

The genocide charge against Kamaruzzaman stems from the slaughter of at least 120 unarmed Bangladeshi farmers in the remote northern village of Sohagpur which has since become known as the "Village of the Widows".

Three of the widows testified against Kamaruzzaman during his trial, in which the prosecution detailed how he led Pakistani government troops to the village.

The soldiers then marched the farmers to paddy fields, forced them to stand in a line and proceeded to gun them down en masse.

Violence

Mohammad Jalal Uddin, a farmer who lost seven members of his extended family in the killing, was delighted at the verdict.

"I lost my father, uncle and other relatives. Their crimes were that they took part in training to join the freedom fight. They were also accused of concealing freedom fighters," said Uddin who was a student at the time.

"My mother and aunt died without getting justice, but at least I've seen justice," Uddin, who heads the village's welfare society for widows, said by phone. "We still have 37 widows in the village."

Defence lawyers rejected the charges as baseless, saying the chances to prove their client innocent were severely curtailed as the court only allowed five witnesses to testify for Kamaruzzaman.

Previous verdicts from the tribunal have sparked widespread violence on the streets of a country which has a 90% Muslim population.

The latest verdict came only days after the deaths of at least 38 people in clashes between the security forces and Islamists who are demanding a new blasphemy law.

No UN endorsement

The secular government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has insisted that it will not bow to the demands of the hardliners.

Around 150 people have now been killed since the first verdict against an Islamic TV preacher was sentenced to death on 21 January.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist allies have said the war crimes court is a political tool for the ruling Awami League government to target its opponents.

Two BNP officials and eight other Jamaat officials including its chief and deputy are still on trial for war crimes. A verdict against Ghulam Azam, the wartime head of Jamaat, is expected later this month.

Unlike other war crime courts across the world, the Bangladesh tribunal is not endorsed by the United Nations. The New York-based Human Rights Watch group has said its procedures fall short of international judicial standards.

The government says the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the 1971 war in which it says three million people were killed and 200 000 women raped. Independent estimates put the death toll between 300 000 and 500 000.

Read more on:    sheikh hasina  |  bangladesh  |  war crimes

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.