Bangladesh MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to hang for war crimes

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Salaudin Quader Chowdhury appears at court in Dhaka on October 1, 2013.
An MP for Bangladesh's main opposition party has been sentenced to death by a war crimes court for charges including murder and genocide during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, the first member of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) to be tried by the court, was found guilty of nine out of 23 charges.
The BNP and his lawyers argue that the trial was politically motivated.
Previous verdicts against Islamist leaders have been followed by protests.
The war crimes tribunal was set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010 and opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents.
Tribunal's Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said: "We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that troubled the collective conscience of mankind."
But human rights groups and the BNP have both said that the tribunal falls short of international standards.

Bangladesh independence war, 1971

  • Civil war erupts in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistan army against East Pakistanis demanding autonomy and later independence
  • Fighting forces an estimated 10 million East Pakistani civilians to flee to India
  • In December, India invades East Pakistan in support of the East Pakistani people
  • Pakistani army surrenders at Dhaka and its army of more than 90,000 become Indian prisoners of war
  • East Pakistan becomes the independent country of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971
  • The war was devastating in its brutality but there are a range of estimates for the exact number of people killed - government figures estimate as many as three million died. Other studies suggest 300-500,000 perished.
"We will do whatever we need to do to show the world that this is a farce," the Reuters news agency quoted Chowdhury's wife, Farhat Quader Chowdhury, as saying immediately afterwards.
Mr Chowdhury's lawyers say that they will appeal against the conviction at the Supreme Court.
The BBC's Mahfuz Sadique - who was in court - says that Mr Chowdhury repeatedly interrupted the tribunal judges as they delivered their two-and-a-half hour verdict.
"This judgement came from the [law] ministry. A copy of the verdict has been available on the internet since yesterday," Mr Chowhury cried out after the announcement of his conviction and sentencing had been finally completed.
Our correspondent says that Mr Chowdury's lawyer also claimed that the verdict was a foregone conclusion - but allegations that it was available online beforehand are impossible to substantiate.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam has dismissed the allegations as "out of the question, incorrect... and merely an assumption".
Lawyers sympathetic to the BNP meanwhile are reported to have threatened to "try everyone connected" with the war crimes tribunal once the party returns to power.
Senior BNP official Khandker Mahabub Hossain said: "Everyone related with the trial will be tried some day on this soil."
Security was tight in Dhaka where the verdict was heard in a packed courtroom.
But troops were also deployed to Chittagong, the home district of Chowdhury where he has been re-elected six times - and where there is likely to be anger at the verdict.
Trauma of independence Analysts say the tribunal's verdicts have exposed profound divisions in Bangladeshi society.
Last month when the Supreme Court gave the death penalty to a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Kader Mullah, there were demonstrations both for and against the decision.
The sentences handed down to its leaders over the last few months have unleashed a wave of unrest, pitting supporters of Jamaat against pro-government groups.
But this rupture goes back to the very origins of Bangladesh when some groups, including Islamist groups like Jamaat, opposed the struggle for independence from Pakistan.
Bangladeshi social activists shout slogans in celebration outside the International Crimes Tribunal court in Dhaka on October 1, 2013 The trial has exposed divisions in Bangladeshi society - some demonstrators celebrated the verdict handed down to Chowdhury
The special court was set up in 2010 by the government to deal with those accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who attempted to stop East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was then) from becoming an independent country.
It is trying nine Jamaat leaders and two members of the BNP - they have always denied any role in war crimes committed by pro-Pakistan militias.
Chowdhury is the first of those BNP members - and the first sitting MP - to be sentenced.
Prosecutors accused him of genocide, abduction, committing atrocities against Hindus and forcefully converting a number of Hindus to Islam.
During the war his father was an influential politician who worked to prevent Bangladesh breaking away. The prosecution also said that his father's residence in Chittagong was turned into a torture cell at that time.
Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed during the war. Other researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.


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