Mass protests over war crimes continues in Bangladesh

Mass protests over a "lenient" sentence of a top Jamaat-e-Islami leader for 1971 war crime charges continued for the third consecutive day on Thursday.

Updated: Feb 07, 2013, 21:32 PM IST

Dhaka: Mass protests over a "lenient" sentence of a top Jamaat-e-Islami leader for 1971 war crime charges continued for the third consecutive day on Thursday with the Bangladesh youngsters demanding death penalty for the fundamentalist.

Witnesses said the protesters grew in number in the past two days while they staged candle light vigils for two consecutive nights.

They have called for a grand rally tomorrow in a bid to intensify their demand for capital punishment for JI assistant secretary general Abdul Kader Mollah, who was sentenced to life term by the International Crimes Tribunal.

Five of the six charges against Mollah were proved during the trial.

A square, adjacent to premier Dhaka University, was decorated with war crime suspects` effigies hanging from lamp posts and bamboo poles, while the protesters sang Liberation War time patriotic songs and chanted 1971 slogans beating drums while leading singers joined them in chorus.

"The sit-in protest appears to be a mixture of protests and festivity expressing angers for lenient punishment to a war criminal and celebration of unity for upholding the spirit of the Liberation War," an elderly 1971 veteran told a news agency.

JI had enforced a nationwide general strike on Tuesday demanding a halt to the war crimes trial of their several stalwarts. However, the counter protests by youngsters visibly prompted the right wing party to backtrack and apparently forced the government to announce a decision to challenge the verdict against Mollah to the apex court.

At least nine people were killed in clashes in the last 10 days as JI appeared desperate in protecting their top leaders enforcing three nationwide stoppages in one week.

The party, which was opposed to Bangladesh`s 1971 independence and sided with Pakistani troops during the Liberation War, said the war crimes charges against Mollah and other senior party leaders like incumbent chief Matiur Rahman Nizami were baseless and part of a wider political vendetta.

Other than Mollah, nine other high-profile suspects were now being tried in two special tribunals for "crimes against humanity" during the war against Pakistan in 1971 when officially three million people were killed and two lakh women were raped.

Among the 10 high profile war crime accused, seven are top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and two are of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) while the rest one, also a former JI leader, was already handed down death penalty after trial in absentia as he went into hiding abroad to evade justice.