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War crimes tribunal sentences Islamist to death

Fourth opposition party leader to get death penalty

War crimes tribunal sentences Islamist to death

Crowds welcomed the death sentence reporter, Dhaka

May 9, 2013

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Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal has handed down a death sentence on a top leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, the fourth member of the opposition party to be given the death penalty by the court.

Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, 60, assistant secretary-general of Jamaat, was found guilty of five out of seven charges including abduction, torture, mass murder and rape during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971.

“Death for Kamaruzzaman was expected in regards to heinous crimes against humanity which he committed during the liberation war. Most of the victims of his crimes were innocent people,” said Rana Dasgupta, a Hindu leader and prosecution lawyer.

The three-member panel delivered the sentence in Dhaka amid tightened security following recent Islamist rallies in the city and violence that was sparked by previous death sentences.

Expressing dismay over the judgment Hasan Iqbal, Kamaruzzaman’s son, told reporters outside the court that his father had been denied justice.

“All the charges are false and it is a politically motivated judgment,” he said.

The verdict cheered a crowd of hundreds gathered at Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square who shouted slogans calling for the death penalty for war criminals and a ban on Jamaat for their “anti-state” activities.

Ziaul Islam, a former freedom-fighting guerilla, said that his father was abducted, tortured and killed by Kamaruzzaman and his militia group because he fought against the Pakistani army.

“He killed many people for no reason. He deserved the death penalty,” Islam said.  

The judgment is the fourth death penalty by the tribunal as it seeks to bring to justice those who committed atrocities more than 40 years ago. However, it faces accusations of political interference. Critics say the ruling Awami League is using it to target its political enemies.

Ten other opposition figures including the entire leadership of Jamaat and two members of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party are still to face charges of war crimes.

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