Bangladesh war crimes court jails Islamic party leader for life
[LATIMES] Protesters clashed with police in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Tuesday after a tribunal sentenced an Islamic party leader to life in prison for his role in the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
"Never forget, never forgive, never 'understand.'"
Although once he's in prison for the rest of his life, we can decide not to care about him anymore...
The International Crimes Tribunal handed down the verdict against Abdul Quader Mollah, 64, a senior figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami party, in a crowded, heavily guarded courtroom at the high court complex in Dhaka.
Jamaat was allied with the Pak military during the war for independence. They provided the local muscle as auxilliaries, familiar with who was who and who was where. I think that was the most vicious "civil war" since at least the end of the Second World War, with somewhere between 1.5 and 3 million dead. (Biafra is probably second, with a million civilian and 200k military casualties.)
Jamaat called a general strike Tuesday that shuttered shops and schools and slowed traffic to a crawl in parts of the capital.
They've been hartaling continuously almost since the start of the war crimes trials. Virtually all the Jamaat's top leadership is on trial or fled.
On Monday, in the wake of a large Jamaat protest demanding that the tribunal be scrapped, several people were injured, local media reported.
They threatened civil war before the verdict came out. Since this is the cleanup from their first "civil war" (with Pakistain) forty years ago they might want to think twice about that.
"We're in the midst of chaos," said Ataur Rahman, a professor at the University of Dhaka. "It's part of Bangladesh politics."
When Hasina's in BNP is screaming and hollering in the streets. When BNP is in, Awami League is screaming and hollering in the streets. I don't think BNP has been present in the legislature since Hasina got in.
Mollah was found guilty on five of six charges, including mass murder and rape. Prosecutors accused him of participating in the deaths of several hundred unarmed civilians as a then-top leader in the Jamaat's student wing while studying physics at Dhaka University, a charge he denied.
"Nope. Nope. Wudn't me."
Several other Jamaat leaders are accused of crimes against humanity during the war against Pakistan over four decades ago.
Somebody committed them. A significant percentage of the populace didn't tie their hands behind themselves and blow their brains out.
On Jan. 21, a major TV preacher and former party member was sentenced to death in absentia.
That would be Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar. Wherever he is, he's not going to be extradited.
Atty. Gen. Mahbube Alam told media representatives Tuesday that the verdict "upset us as we expected ... capital punishment for the crimes he committed."
When he's in jug he's still alive, eligible for prisoner swaps for hostages or for jail breaks, given prison guards who can be bribed. I think Bangla is something like #143 on the "least" corrupt list.
Human rights groups have questioned proceedings at the tribunal, which was created in 2010 and has no international oversight.
Daily Star has carried accounts of the trials virtually every day. Many of the "issues" are manufactured by the defense -- they didn't show up for the sentencing, for instance.
Concerns include a decision not to probe the November disappearance of a defense witness outside the courthouse gates. "An allegation as serious as the abduction of a witness deserves prompt action and a thorough and impartial investigation," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement at the time.
The story is that Shukho Ranjan Bali was abducted by RAB while arriving to give testimony. That was on November 5th. He hasnt been seen since. That was also in Delwar Hussein Sayedee's case, not this one.
Jamaat rejected Tuesday's verdict and called for another strike Wednesday in a bid to ramp up pressure on the ruling Awami League.
They also "rejected" the arrests of their top leadership. Their "rejection" means more months of rioting in the streets.
"The verdict is a reflection of political vengeance," Rafiqul Islam Khan, Jamaat's acting assistant secretary-general, told reporters. "The verdict is dictated by the government."
Hasina's govt seems determined to break the power of the Jamaat. Jamaat is part of BNP's four-party alliance -- even though religion-based parties are illegal under the Bangla constitution -- as one reason. They also kind of blatantly involved with the extremist groups like JMB and HuJI. Most important, though, I think, is that they turn their brown turbans out flinging bricks and whacking things and setting fire to cars at the least opportunity.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which initiated the tribunal, has denied any bias in the proceedings. Bangladesh's political system can be highly polarized, and all of those on trial for war crimes are opposition politicians.
There's a political element to it, but I'm sure it galls Hasina and her associates to see the Jamaat leadership fat and happy and allied with Khaleda Zia -- the widow of Ziaur Rehman.
Analysts said the government may have underestimated how contentious the tribunal would become. Many of the accused are well-entrenched in Bangladeshi politics four decades on, even as a younger generation finds appeal in Jamaat's Islamic message.
I already said they were fat and happy.
"If the government pushes too hard to get these guys, it could create more divisions in society," Rahman said. "We still carry a lot of emotion from the 1971 war."
Doing nothing is always the easiest thing, isn't it? Doing something to contain or eliminate a growing threat is much harder.
Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971, is suspected of helping organize groups that assisted Pakistani troops in killings, rapes and arson. According to official figures, Pakistani troops and local collaborators killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women.
It's not "suspected." It's documented. The guys on trial are among those documented.
Police last week said they shot and killed two Jamaat activists in clashes across Bangladesh. The party has put the number of its members in the hands of police at four. Twelve people, including five policemen, were injured over the weekend after Jamaat supporters clashed with police in a Dhaka suburb.
Posted by: Fred