Top JI leader jailed for life in Bangladesh; riots follow

A top leader of Bangladesh`s fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was sentenced to life by a special tribunal for "crime against humanity".

Dhaka: A top leader of Bangladesh`s fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was on Tuesday sentenced to life by a special tribunal here for "crime against humanity" committed during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, sparking riots that claimed at least one life.

"He (Abdul Kader Mollah) will serve life term," said chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal Justice Obaidul Hassan.

Mollah, assistant secretary general of the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami, was produced before the court under heavy security escort from Dhaka Central Jail.

The tribunal said five of the six charges against Mollah were proved during the trial.

Court officials said that under the Bangladeshi law 65-year-old Mollah would need to serve 30 years in jail as the Penal Code suggests this timeframe to be treated as life term.

Mollah sat quietly in the dock as the judgement was being delivered and jumped to his feet as soon as the verdict was pronounced and shouted claiming innocence.

"This verdict is fabricated and I will file a case (appeal) against it for sure," he screamed as the police took him away to be shifted to Dhaka Central Jail.

Violence gripped the capital Dhaka and several other major cities after the verdict.

Police said a man was shot dead in clashes between JI activists in southeastern Chittagong.

Incidentally, rival activists also took to the street demanding a revision of the trial and death penalty for Mollah.

The judgment came as the JI enforced a nationwide general strike demanding halt of the trial of their top seven leaders for 1971 war crimes siding with Pakistani troops while the extreme right-wing party called for a shutdown tomorrow for the "politically motivated and government directed judgment".

This was the second such judgment by the tribunal in less
than three weeks after it awarded death penalty to fugitive Abul Kalam Azad, an anchor of Islamic programmes in a private TV channel and former or expelled JI leader, on January 17.

Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, along with fellow party leader Muhammad Qamaruzzaman from in front of the Supreme Court premises to face justice as alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity in 1971.

The tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012 on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attack directed upon the unarmed civilians, "causing commission of the horrific" genocides, murders and rapes.

But the prosecution and 1971 veterans said the verdict upset them since there were specific charges of murders against him and in several incidents evidence were there Mollah himself took part in killings.

Attorney general Mahbube Alam told the media that the verdict "upsets us as we expected the capital punishment for the crimes he committed".

Immediately after the verdict, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said it was the prosecutors who should decide if the verdict should be challenged in the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reviewing the judgment and related documents.

The JI activists set on fire a number of buses and damaged several others as those plied at different routes carrying passengers defying the hartal call.

A police statement said they arrested 52 JI activists alone from Dhaka on charges of arson and vandalism during the strike.

The suspected JI activists last night set on fire a bus burning a young banker to death and injuring four others as they tried to create a panic to enforce the today`s strike against the war crimes trial.

JI was opposed to Bangladesh`s 1971 independence from Pakistan and the party sided with Pakistani troops during the Liberation War when officially three million people were killed.