Dhaka: Bangladeshi cabinet Monday approved an amendment to a law that will allow the government to seek tougher penalties for war criminals, as thousands protested for the seventh consecutive day against "lenient" life term handed down to an Islamist leader for crimes against humanity.
"The existing law allows prosecution to appeal against in cases of acquittal alone," Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters after cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
But, he said, the proposed amendment "will give the prosecution and the defence equal opportunities to challenge (before the apex court) any judgments" handed down by the country`s International Crimes Tribunals (ICT).
Bhuiyan said the proposed amendment also suggested a "45-day timeframe" instead of "indefinite period" for disposal of an appeal at the Appellate Division of Supreme Court with provision of extending the time for another 15 days for "reasonable causes".
The ICT last week sentenced fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison for "crimes against humanity" siding with Pakistani troops during the 1971 liberation war.
The sentence sparked protests by Mollah`s supporters, who say his conviction was politically motivated, but also counter-protests by many Bangladeshis who think his sentence was too lenient and he should have been sentenced to death.
The protests continued for the seventh consecutive day today as the protestors grew in numbers. Youths in other major cities, including the southeastern port city of Chittagong staged demonstrations.
The protests prompted the government to announce steps to challenge the tribunal verdict for Mollah.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed today told PTI that that Parliament was likely to pass the draft amendment to an act in its current ongoing session so the prosecution could file the appeal under the amended law.