Televangelist to hang for war crimes

2013-01-21 11:13
An activist protests outside the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka. (Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

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

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

Dhaka - Bangladesh's controversial war crimes court probing the nation's bloody independence war sentenced a top Islamic televangelist to death on Monday in its first conviction.

Maolana Abul Kalam Azad, who has been on the run for the last year, was "sentenced to death by hanging" for genocide and murder committed during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan, judge Obaidul Hasan announced.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which is a domestic tribunal with no international oversight, was created by the government in 2010 and has been tainted by allegations that it is politically motivated.

"It's a historic day for the country. It's victory for the humanity. Bangladeshi people have been waiting for this day. They can now heave a sigh of relief since 1971," said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam.

Azad, aged 63, who for years presented a widely watched show on Islam on private and state-run television channels, is a former leading light of Bangladesh's largest opposition Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami.

In total, eleven senior opposition figures -nine from Jamaat and two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)- stand accused of war crimes.

Both Jamaat and BNP have called the cases "politically motivated and farcical" and international rights groups have questioned the proceedings and found loopholes in the war crime laws.

Abdus Shukur Khan, a tribunal-appointed defence lawyer for Azad, said the case was "false".
"He was not involved in any of these crimes and was never named a Pakistani collaborator in any of the war books," he told AFP.

Prosecutor Shahidur Rahman told AFP that Azad became known as "Bachchu the collaborator" during the war in his home town in the southwestern district of Faridpur, where he was accused of murdering at least a dozen Hindus.

"Six of them he shot dead himself and took part in a genocide," Rahman said.

In the 1980s Azad became a regular speaker at a top mosque in Dhaka. His TV shows are said to have helped shape the Muslim-majority country's Sufi-inspired Islam to that of the more austere Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam.

Azad, who also heads an Islamic charity, went into hiding and is believed to have fled the country immediately after the tribunal opened the case against him.

Bangladesh war

Bangladesh, which was called East Pakistan until 1971, has struggled to come to terms with its violent birth.

The current government says up to three million people were killed in the war, many murdered by locals including allegedly by the members of Jamaat who collaborated with Pakistani forces.

The administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established the tribunal in March 2010 to try the collaborators, but is has since been hit by a series of controversies.

Last month a presiding judge resigned after his leaked Internet calls showed that he was under pressure from the government to deliver a quick judgement, raising further questions about the fairness of the trials.

The government says the trials are fair and meet international standards.

The 1971 war began after tens of thousands of people were killed in Dhaka when then-West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight, a campaign intended to deter Bangladeshis from seeking independence.

Read more on:    bangladesh

Join the conversation! 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. 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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Meet instagram star, Pumpkin the racoon

With 300 000 followers and growing Pumpkin is winning over the internet!



The cats that cost R35 000
Miley Cyrus can’t get enough of her new puppy
13 guilty pets
Meet SA's top poacher-catcher

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Plant some seeds. Your innovative mind is on fire and your ingenious ideas may just be the seeds for future projects. You may more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


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 network.


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.