DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court yesterday sentenced a senior Islamist leader to death for mass murder, toughening the punishment originally handed down by the country’s war crimes tribunal and sparking fresh violence.
Abdul Quader Molla, 65, the fourth-highest leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, had been given a life sentence in February by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal.
The tribunal has since January convicted six Islamists of crimes related to the 1971 war, in which pro-independence fighters battled Pakistani forces which were helped by local Islamist leaders.
Molla’s life sentence had sparked deadly protests and widespread riots and there was fresh unrest yesterday as he was sentenced to hang, with Jamaat supporters torching vehicles in the southeastern port city of Chittagong. “There were about 2,000 Jamaat protesters. They rioted, torching a police van and a private car,” local police chief Mohammad Mohiuddin said, adding police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.
There were also sporadic clashes in the capital Dhaka and several other cities and towns, police said. Outside the northern city of Bogra, a policeman was injured after protesters hurled three small bombs, police inspector Fazlul Karim said.
Molla was convicted of rape, murder and mass murder including the killing of more than 350 unarmed Bengali civilians, a poet and a top journalist during the war, when he was a physics student at Dhaka University.
Prosecutors described him as the “Butcher of Mirpur”, a Dhaka suburb where he committed most of the atrocities.
The conflict led to the creation of Bangladesh from what was then East Pakistan. Defence lawyer Tajul Islam said: “We are stunned by the verdict. This is the first time in South Asian judicial history that a trial court sentence has been enhanced by a Supreme Court.” AFP