DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court Tuesday sentenced a leader of an opposition political party to death for committing crimes against humanity during the nation’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
The Jamaat-e-Islami party leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, was found guilty by a special war crimes tribunal in February and sentenced to life in prison. That sentence was appealed by both the defense and prosecution.
A five-member panel headed by Chief Justice M. Muzammel Hossain ruled Tuesday that Mollah be put to death for his role during the war. They found him guilty of ordering the killing of a family of four during a 1971 Pakistani army crackdown in Dhaka.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the verdict was final, with no option for another appeal through the courts. He said Mollah’s family can seek presidential clemency.
Defense counsel Abdur Razzaq said they were “stunned” by the decision.
Hours after the verdict, Mollah’s party said it would enforce a 48-hour general strike beginning Wednesday across the country to denounce the ruling. Somoy TV station reported that activists from Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing had torched a police car and smashed several cars in the southeastern city of Chittagong to protest the verdict. No injuries were reported.
Other TV stations reported clashes between Jamaat-e-Islami activists and police in the capital, Dhaka, and in several other towns. Scores were injured in those clashes. In Dhaka, police detained at least five activists from the party when they clashed with security officials, Bangla Vision TV station said.
Mollah and his supporters say the case against him is politically motivated. Mollah’s party is an ally of the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hasina formed the special tribunal in 2010 to try war crimes suspects. Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war.
Zia has accused the government of using trials to weaken the opposition. The government denies this and says it won power in 2008 with a pledge to prosecute war crimes suspects.