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Injuries mount in war crimes protests

Islamist leader's sentence too light, say protesters

Injuries mount in war crimes protests
A life sentence for Abdul Quader Mollah has sparked rival protests (photo by Shahadat Hossain) reporter, Dhaka

February 7, 2013

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At least 10 people were injured near Dhaka in a third day of violence on Thursday as clashes continued across the country following Tuesday's life sentence on Islamist leader Abdul Quader Mollah for crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

Protesters continued to block roads in Dhaka and other major cities in anger at what they called a lenient sentence. Meanwhile, Mollah’s supporters led strikes to protest against what they claim to be a politically motivated verdict, targeting the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Those against Mollah have organized protests online through the Bloggers and Facebook Activists Network. Activities have included sit-ins, rallies, candlelit vigils and singing of patriotic songs and slogans in Shahbagh Avenue, which some have dubbed the ‘Tahrir Square’ of Bangladesh.

Four people have died since the clashes started on Tuesday following the controversial verdict.

Mollah, 64, assistant secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday after being found guilty on five of six criminal charges, including the murder of 381 unarmed villagers and rape, and as a collaborator with Pakistan occupation forces.

Last month, the tribunal sentenced in absentia Abul Kalam Azad, a former party member, to death in Bangladesh's first war crimes trial verdict. Protesters say Mollah’s crimes are much more serious than those committed by Azad.

“We’ve elected this government to try war criminals. We demand capital punishment for war criminals and we will not stop unless our demand is met,” said Mahmud Hasan, a student from Dhaka University.

Jamaat acting secretary Rafiqul Islam Khan said the party rejected “the stage-managed verdict by the government” and defense lawyer Abdur Razzaq said on Tuesday they will appeal against Mollah's life sentence.

The Bangladesh government is also set to appeal, The Daily Star newspaper quoted Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam as saying.

The Awami League-led government has pledged to try those found guilty of war crimes during the war of independence but critics have accused the tribunal of bias, claiming it is deliberately targeting the ruling party’s key political opponents.

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