Riots ahead of war crimes verdict

2013-02-05 11:02
An activist protests outside the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka. (File, AFP)

An activist protests outside the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka. (File, AFP)

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Dhaka - A man was burned to death as riots rocked Dhaka ahead of a verdict on Tuesday against a senior Islamist opposition official accused of genocide during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

Abdul Quader Molla, aged 64, assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, could be sentenced to death by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal following charges of rape, genocide and murder.

Jamaat announced a nationwide strike on Tuesday after the tribunal on Monday announced the verdict would be delivered the following day. Jamaat warned it would resist at any cost a "government blueprint" to execute its leaders.

The verdict is expected to be given at around 11:30 (0530 GMT).

Police said a young banker was burnt to death and four people injured on Monday evening after a bus was torched by suspected Jamaat activists protesting the war crime trials of its leaders.

"He was in the bus when it was set on fire," deputy police commissioner Nisharul Arif said, blaming members of Jamaat, the country's largest Islamic party for the arson.

10 000 cops on patrol

Police clashed with protesters early on Tuesday near Old Dhaka after they smashed cars and autorickshaws. "We fired several rounds of rubber bullets to disperse them," police inspector Mizanur Rahman said.

Security was tight in the capital with more than 10 000 policemen on patrol. Schools were closed and many shops and businesses shuttered. Motorways linking Dhaka with other cities were largely empty.

Protests against the war crime trials turned deadly last Thursday, leaving three people dead in the northwestern city of Bogra.

The Tribunal, a domestic body with no international oversight, was created by the country's secular government in 2010. It has been tainted by allegations it is politically motivated, targeting only senior opposition officials.

Ten other opposition figures - including the entire leadership of Jamaat and two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) - stand accused of war crimes.

Both Jamaat and the main opposition BNP have labelled the cases "show trials" aimed at barring the leaders from upcoming polls. International rights groups have questioned the proceedings.

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