Death sentence sparks bloody protests
At least 30 killed after war crimes sentence is handed down
At least 30 people, including four policemen, were killed and hundreds were hurt in nationwide street protests on Thursday, after an Islamic fundamentalist was sentenced to death for war crimes.
Jamaat-e-Islami Party leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 73, was found guilty of murder, rape, arson, torture and forced conversion of minority Hindus during the country’s war for independence in 1971.
Hundreds of his supporters attacked police with stones, sticks and homemade bombs. Police and paramilitary border guards used teargas and opened fire to quell the violence.
Hindu temples and homes have been targeted, according to local reports.
On Thursday, Jamaat acting secretary-general Rafiqul Islam Khan called for continued agitation on Friday and Saturday and a 48-hour nationwide strike starting on Sunday.
The government has deployed border guards and thousands of police officers across the country.
The International Crimes Tribunal was set up by the ruling Awami League in 2010 and is trying a total of 11 opposition leaders -- nine from Jamaat and two from its longtime political ally, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Jamaat and BNP have called the tribunal “politically motivated,” while critics have raised questions about standards and procedures.
“We’ll appeal against the judgment, because he is innocent,” Defense lawyer Barrister Abdur Razzaque said, calling the verdict “surprising and unjust."
The two-court tribunal has now convicted three Jamaat leaders, with other cases still underway.
Sayedee said the verdict was a result of excessive pressure from "atheists of Shahbagh" -- tens of thousands of demonstrators who have been demanding the death penalty for war criminals outside the Dhaka court for nearly a month.
The crowds in Shahbagh Avenue burst into cheers as the news broke.
“The verdict has delivered justice and we are happy with it,” said Shohidul Islam, 40, a Dhaka resident. "We hope that the death penalty will be handed down to other war criminals."
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