Death sentence for top Bangladeshi MP
BNP leader accused of crimes against humanity in 1971 war
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury waves as he enters court today (AFP photo)
A Bangladeshi war crimes court has sentenced to death an opposition lawmaker for crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
The judgment against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, an incumbent parliamentarian and controversial central leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was delivered in Dhaka by International Crimes Tribunal-1, one of the two domestic courts prosecuting people for wartime abuses.
Chowdhury was found guilty of nine out of 23 war crimes charges including murder, rape, abduction and torture. Much of this was targeted against the minority Hindu community at his hometown in southeastern Chittagong district.
Large numbers of police and security personnel were deployed around the tribunal area in the capital Dhaka and in five sub-districts of Chittagong, Chowdhury’s power-base, to quell possible violence triggered by the verdict.
“Supporters of Chowdhury blocked roads in Chittagong and smashed several vehicles in protest before and after the judgment”, said Enamul Haque, a police official in Chittagong.
Zead-Al-Malum, a state prosecutor said: “SQ Chowdhury deserved the death penalty for playing a leading role in orchestrating atrocities against innocent civilians along with the invading Pakistan army.”
Nutan Chandra Sinha, a prominent Hindu philanthropist, was among those people murdered by Chowdhury and his band of local collaborators from the Pakistan army during the war. His son, Prafulla Chnadra Sinha, says the judgment brings great relief to his family.
“We thank God that our cry for justice has been realized after more than 40 years. At times, we thought it would never be done because SQ Chowdhury is a powerful man who lived proudly in the public eye for such a long time, even after committing such heinous crimes,” Sinha said after the verdict.
Like his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, SQ Chowdhury was a member of the now defunct Muslim League party which opposed Bangladeshi independence and was accused of fueling brutalities against pro-liberation elements. After the war FQ Chowdhury was arrested on charges of war crimes and died in prison in 1973.
Chowdhury denied all charges and said the trial was a political conspiracy by the ruling Awami League. His younger son Hummam Quader Chowdhury said the judgment was a farce.
“My father was not involved in a single war crime, but he has been framed for political reasons. The trial and judgment are mockery to justice,” he said.
Chowdhury is the first BNP leader convicted of war crimes, while the party leader is also being tried. Six top leaders from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party and longtime BNP ally, have been either sentenced to death or life for war crimes. Several others are being prosecuted.
Despite the popularity among most Bangladeshis, the war crimes trial has been accused of kowtowing to government influence. Critics, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, say it falls short of international standards.
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