Death sought for Bangladesh war crimes suspect

January 18, 2013 - 3:41:15 am

DHAKA: Prosecutors sought the death sentence yesterday for a top Bangladeshi opposition figure who is expected to be the first person convicted by the country’s controversial war crimes court.

Abdul Quader Molla, 64, the third highest ranked official of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was accused of killing more than 400 people during Bangladesh’s deadly 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Molla was present at a special court in the Bangladeshi capital where his lawyers said the prosecution had failed to prove any of the six charges against him.

Prosecutor Mohammad Ali, in his closing arguments, said Molla deserved maximum punishment as the charges against him, such as genocide and murder, including that of a top journalist and a poet, were “proved beyond reasonable doubt”.

“We prayed for the conviction of Mr. Molla and he deserves to be awarded capital punishment, which is death sentence,” he added.

Ali said the court would now deliver the judgement “at any moment on any day soon”.

If convicted, Molla would be the first of about a dozen opposition leaders — two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the rest from Jamaat — to be found guilty. 

Named the International Crimes Tribunal, the court is a domestic one set up by the secular government in 2010. It is not endorsed by the United Nations.

Both BNP and Jamaat called the cases “politically motivated”. International rights groups also highlighted shortcomings of the war crime laws and questioned the fairness of the proceedings.

The government says up to three million people were killed in the war.