March 5, 2015 / 3:03 PM / 3 years ago

Bangladesh Islamist appeals against death sentence for war crimes

DHAKA (Reuters) - A senior leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday to scrap the death penalty passed on him for genocide and torture of civilians during the country’s 1971 war.

Thursday was the last day permitted for Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, 63, an assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, to appeal for a review.

On November 3 last year the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for mass killing, murder, abduction, torture, rape, and other atrocities during the war of independence from Pakistan.

The sentence had been was first imposed in May 2013 by a special war crimes tribunal. Kamaruzzaman has asked for both the verdict and sentence to be dropped, his lawyer Khandaker Mahbub said on Thursday.

The court fixed Sunday for a hearing of the review petition.

Violent protests over such trials are one of the main challenges facing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened an inquiry into war crimes in 2010.

Senior Jamaat official Abdul Quader Molla was hanged for war crimes in December 2013, after the Supreme Court overturned a life sentence imposed by the tribunal.

His is the only such execution carried out so far, but eight others have been sentenced to death for their actions in the 1971 war.

The prosecutions have angered Islamists, who call them a politically-motivated campaign against the leadership of Jamaat, intended to weaken the opposition.

More than 200 people were killed in protests over the cases in 2013, including Islamist party activists and members of the security forces.

International human rights groups say the tribunal’s procedures fall short of international standards. The government denies the accusation.

The territory of East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces. About three million people were killed in the conflict.

Some factions in Bangladesh, including Jamaat, opposed the break with Pakistan. The party denies accusations that its leaders committed murder, rape and torture.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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