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One dead in riots over Islamist's death sentence

Violent rallies follow death sentence for party leader

One dead in riots over Islamist's death sentence

Police and fireman arrive at the scene of a bus smashed by Jamaat supporters (photo by Shahadat Hosen) reporter, Dhaka

September 18, 2013

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Violent demonstrations by supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party left one man dead and dozens of vehicles destroyed in Bangladesh.

After the death sentence was passed for war crimes on Abdul Kader Mollah, Jamaat’s assistant secretary general, supporters called a 48 hour strike and went on a rampage across the country, detonating home made bombs and smashing vehicles, leaving about 30 people injured including policemen.

In Noakhali district, a rickshaw puller died after being hit by a brick thrown by protesters and in Chittagong, the country’s second largest city, a policeman was shot and seriously wounded.  

Police arrested about 12 protesters across Dhaka during similarly violent scenes.

“the Jamaat activists were arrested as they tried to begin processions and start anarchy,” said Dhaka police official Masudur Rahman.     

Jamaat and its entire leadership stand accused of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The party termed the latest verdict “unacceptable,” saying that it was “a government conspiracy to kill Jamaat leaders.”

“We are respectful to the country’s highest court but we reject this wrong judgment. We protest against the government’s move to destroy our party,” Jamaat acting secretary general Rafiqul Islam said in statement calling for the ongoing strike.

Six top Jamaat leaders have been sentenced to death by the country’s war crimes tribunal, verdicts which sparked similar protests leaving more than 100 people dead, while six others remain behind bars awaiting trial.

Jamaat and long-time ally, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have accused the ruling Awami League government of using the tribunal to eliminate political opponents.

However, critics say that Jamaat has become increasingly irrelevant politically in majority Muslim Bangladesh, forcing it to turn towards militancy.

“Jamaat never believed in an independent and democratic Bangladesh. Its wrong principles and violence in the name of Islam have been rejected by the majority of Bangladeshi people,” said Nasiruddin Yusuf, a prominent cultural activist and secularist.

Bangladesh's main Islamist party gained 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament following 1991 elections and 17 seats in 2001 but just two seats after the 2008 polls. The next election is due by January 24 next year. 

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