Bangladesh Islamist gets life for 1971 war crimes

Tue Feb 5, 2013 1:08pm EST
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By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) - A war crimes tribunal sentenced a senior leader of Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party to life in prison on Tuesday, the second verdict in trials that have reopened the wounds of Bangladesh's 1971 independence war and sparked violent unrest.

At least three people were killed in violent protests after Abdul Quader Mollah, 64, was found guilty of charges including murder, rape, torture and arson during Bangladesh's war to break away from Pakistan.

Mollah's Jamaat-e-Islami party called for a national strike that shut shops and businesses to extend into Wednesday, and party activists skirmished with police in the capital, Dhaka, and other towns after the verdict.

In the southeastern city of Chittagong, one person was killed when police opened fire and used truncheons during demonstrations, police and witnesses said. Later on, witnesses said two people had been killed as Jamaat activists fought police.

In the evening, paramilitary forces were deployed at Dhaka's key locations including government buildings, courts and major intersections.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict, in which about 3 million people died and thousands of women were raped.

But critics say she is using it as a political weapon against the two biggest opposition parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami.

The court delivered its first verdict last month, sentencing a former member of Jamaat-e-Islami and popular Islamic preacher to death.   Continued...

Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah gestures as he talks from a police van after a war crimes tribunal sentenced him to life imprisonment in Dhaka February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer