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B’desh approves controversial war criminal law
Bangladesh's cabinet approved changes to war crime laws to make sure opposition leaders on trial for alleged atrocities during the 1971 war can be swiftly executed if convicted.

The move came amid demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people in Dhaka for the past week demanding quick executions of the 10 alleged war criminals currently being tried on such charges as genocide and rape. Two others have already been convicted.

The protests began after the war crimes tribunal last week gave a life sentence to a leader of the largest Islamic party -- a term critics said was too lenient.

Cabinet secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the changes, allowing the state and victims to contest the life term for Abdul Quader Molla of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. The cabinet also set a 60-day limit for the Supreme Court's Appellate Division to dispose of appeals, Bhuiyan said, meaning someone who gets a maximum death sentence can be hanged this year.

Bhuiyan said, "Previously there were no rules on disposing of an appeal at the Appellate Division. Now, a new rule has been added under which an appeal (against a war crime verdict) must be disposed of within 45 days. If not possible... the Appellate division will get another 15 days. The total is 60 days."

The parliament "will pass the law within a few days", he added.

The war court, called the International Crimes Tribunal even though it has no international oversight, last month sentenced an Islamic TV preacher to death for murder during the 1971 war.

Last Tuesday, Molla, Jamaat's fourth-highest ranked leader, who was accused of mass murder, became the first opposition leader to be sentenced. Eight other Jamaat officials, including its head and deputy head and two senior officials of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are also being tried by the tribunal.

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

The life term for the Jamaat-e-Islami party leader sparked nationwide protests with Jamaat rejecting the verdict and its supporters clashing with police, resulting in at least four deaths.
Posted by:ryuge