Dhaka, Sep 17 — Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party has called a 48-hour national strike after the country’s apex court Tuesday morning awarded the death penalty to a high-ranking leader for war crimes, including mass killings.
Hours after the appellate division of the supreme court awarded the capital punishment to assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party Abdul Quader Mollah, it called a 48-hour nationwide strike Sep 18-19, Xinha reported.
The party has called the strike protesting what it referred to as “the government hatching conspiracy to kill its leaders and running anti-Islamic activities, state-sponsored repression”.
In a statement, Jamaa said the 48-strike has been called to also demand the release of its leaders including Mollah.
The apex court verdict came more than seven months after a special tribunal, set up to try those allegedly involved in war crimes during the south Asian country’s nine-month liberation war in 1971, sentenced the leader to life term imprisonment.
After the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment Feb 5 for his war crimes, hundreds of people, mostly pro-ruling party men, flocked to Shahbag square, an iconic place in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, demanding death penalty for crimes against humanity in 1971.
The demonstration, which soon transformed into a people’s movement and spread across the country and among Bangladeshis living abroad, forced the government to amend the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 Feb 17 to ensure the rights of the state to appeal on behalf of the war crimes victims of 1971.
The state March 3 appealed to the apex court against Mollah’s sentencing, claiming that the punishment was inadequate, and sought the death penalty.
The defence appealed a day later seeking acquittal from all charges.
The five-member bench of the appellate division headed by chief justice Mohammad Muzammel Hossain pronounced the first war crimes verdict of the supreme court at a jam-packed court room in the presence of a huge crowd of people, particularly journalists and lawyers amid beefed up security measures.
Mollah, who is now behind the bar, was indicted in May last year with six specific charges for his alleged involvement in murders and mass killings in 1971.
He was acquitted from one of the six charges.
Chief defence counsel Abdul Razzaq termed the verdict “wrong” and said a review petition would be filed within 30 days of receiving the full verdict.
He said there was no such example of the supreme court giving the death sentence after the trial court had given a life sentence.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said there was no scope for filing a review petition.
“My opinion is that this is the final verdict and the legal process ends. He (Mollah) can only seek clemency from president,” Alam said
Razzaq, also an assistant secretary general of Jamaat, could not tell immediately whether presidential pardon would be sought.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party and its allies have expressed deep satisfaction with the apex court verdict.
The verdict had reflected the people’s expectations and it could possibly be executed within the tenure of this government ending next month, said AL spokesman Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif.
But in protest against the verdict, Jamaat burst into violent protests.
Party activists fought pitched battles with police in the southeastern port city of Chittagong among other places in the country.
TV footage showed stone-throwing Jamaat activists fighting with law enforcers in Chittagong and setting a police vehicle and a private car ablaze.
Jamaat is a key ally of former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s main opposition alliance which has been waging protests, demanding the restoration of the non-party caretaker system to oversee the next general elections slated for early 2014.