GULF NEWS (UAE), THE INDEPENDENT (BANGLADESH), BBC (UK), AP, AFP
DHAKA – On Tuesday, a Bangladesh war crimes tribunal sentenced Abdul Quader Molla, a leader of the country’s main Islamic party, to a life sentence for crimes against humanity during the independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
In anticipation of the verdict, violent riots broke out around the country on Monday night.
Abdul Quader Molla and five other fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leaders have been on trial before Dhaka's International Crimes Tribunal, reports the AP. They have been accused of committing atrocities during the nine-month war against Pakistan in 1971.
Abdul Quader Molla "deserved a death sentence because of the gravity of the crimes. But the court gave him life imprisonment," said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, adding that Molla was found guilty of five out of six charges, including mass murder.
Last month, another JI leader, fugitive Abul Kalam Azad was sentenced in absentia to the death penalty.
The trials have been branded “show trials” and international rights groups have questioned the proceedings, reports the AFP.
Tuesday’s verdict came as JI enforced a nationwide strike and demanded the abolishment of the tribunals and called for the release of their detained leaders reports Dhaka daily, The Independent.
According to the Gulf News, riots broke out on Monday night in anticipation of the verdict. Suspected JI activists set a bus on fire, burning a passenger to death and injuring four others.
Police said they had clashed with protesters in the capital, as well as in several other cities across the country after the verdict says the AFP. In northwestern Rajshahi, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at almost 500 Jamaat-e-Islami supporters, who threw at least a dozen homemade firebombs.
Official estimates, writes the BBC, say that more than three million people were killed in the war against Pakistan in 1971. The trials have sparked protests from supporters of the party, who accuse the sitting government of pursuing a political vendetta.
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