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Jamaat-e-Islami banned from elections

High Court says Islamist party's charter violates secular constitution

Jamaat-e-Islami banned from elections

Jamaat supporters rioted after the High Court decision (photo by Shahadat Hosen) reporter, Dhaka

August 2, 2013

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The High Court has ruled the electoral registration of Jamaat-e-Islami to be illegal over violations of Bangladesh’s secular constitution, prompting rioting by supporters yesterday.

The decision all but bars the party from running in elections due by mid-January unless it wins an appeal and re-registers its charter.

Election Commission prosecutor Mohsin Rashid said that Jamaat can still continue politics even if it cannot run in polls.

The decision comes at a time when many of the party’s top leaders are behind bars for crimes committed during the War of Independence from Pakistan in 1971.

“Jamaat did not believe in the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh, and the party committed serious crimes during the country’s liberation war,” Rezaul Hoque Chandpuri, a scholar who filed the court petition which led to yesterday’s decision, said outside the court in Dhaka.

Jamaat’s acting secretary-general, Rafiqul Islam Khan, dismissed the decision as a political move by the Awami League government in the lead up to polls as the party called for a nationwide 48-hour strike starting on August 12.

Party activists went on a rampage smashing and torching vehicles in Dhaka and other districts immediately after the verdict.

“The country’s constitution gives Jamaat-e-Islami every right to do politics in Bangladesh,” said Khan. “The judgment opens the door to declaring registration of all other parties illegal which threatens democracy and rule of law in the country.”

A memorandum of the Election Commission from 2010 said that the charters of nine out of 11 registered political parties conflicted with electoral rules, he added.

Jamaat lawyer Abdur Razzaque said an appeal against the ruling had already been filed.

“We hope that the Appellate Division will overturn the judgment and we can take part in the election,” he said.

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