World Bulletin/News Desk
A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal convicted and sentenced an Islamic party leader to death on Thursday, raising fears of a repeat of clashes between police and protesters after fellow suspects were condemned to death earlier this year.
Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, 59, assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was found guilty on charges of genocide and torture of unarmed civilians during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan, lawyers and tribunal officials said.
Kamaruzzaman's verdict was the fourth reached by the tribunal, with more to come, and drew a huge crowd outside the court amid tight security.
Leading defence lawyer Abdur Razzaq rejected the verdict and sentence and said Kamaruzzaman would appeal.
Supporters and activists of Jamaat and its student front Islami Chatra Shibir staged protests against the verdict in cities across the country, including Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and Patuakhali, police and witnesses said.
They said activists blocked highways, attacked vehicles, started fires and attacked banks and government buildings. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.
Jamaat called a day-long general strike on Sunday to protest against the verdict.
Bangladesh, which is also reeling from a garment factory collapse that killed more than 900 people, has been rocked by protests and counter-protests related to the complex legacy of the independence war in recent months.
The protests are one of the main challenges facing the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened an inquiry into abuses committed during the war in 2010.
Jamaat-e-Islami accuses the government of using the tribunal to try and curb the opposition's activities.
The death sentence comes as campaign was launched to halt execution of former leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Ghulam Azam.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul had sent a letter to Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman requesting 91-year old Islamic leader not to be executed for the sake of peace in the society, which was strongly rejected by Bangladesh.
The conviction of Abul Kalam Azad was the first verdict handed down by a controversial tribunal trying people accused of committing crimes during the war.
Other top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami also face prosecution.
Jamaat opposed Bangladeshi independence from Pakistan but denies accusations that some of its leaders committed crimes during the conflict.
More than 100 people have been killed in the clashes this year, most of them party activists and members of the security forces.
The tribunal has been criticized by rights groups for failing to adhere to international standards. Human Rights Watch said lawyers, witnesses and investigators reported they had been threatened.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition party, has also turned up the heat on Hasina's secular Awami League government by calling a series of strikes to demand she resign.
Last Mod: 09 Mayıs 2013, 17:52