DHAKA (TIP): Bangladesh battled a fresh outbreak of street violence on Thursday after senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman was sentenced to death for mass murder and crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war. Clashes were reported in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong and other major Bangladeshi cities as Jamaat activists rioted and hurled crude bombs. One of the cases in which Kamaruzzaman was convicted was that of collaborating in the mass murder of 164 unarmed civilians in Sohagpur on July 25, 1971.
He is the third Jamaat leader to be sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up by the Sheikh Hasina government after Abdul Kalam Azad alias Bacchu Razakar and Delawar Hossain Sayeedi. The verdicts had sparked off nationwide violence earlier this year and revealed a split in Bangladeshi society as Jamaat activists, backed by Khaleda Zia’s BNP, went on the rampage and the civil society gathered at Shahbag Square to demand death for all war criminals.
The Shahbag movement began on February 5 in protest against the life term awarded to another war criminal, Abdul Qader Mollah, and eventually took the shape of an anti-fundamentalist movement as the Jamaat tried to terrorize people through an orgy of street violence that has so far claimed at least 200 lives. The trial of war criminals allegedly responsible for the murder of at least three million Bangladeshis has been a long-standing demand of the Bengladeshi civil society.
Kamaruzzaman, the assistant general secretary Of Jamaat, was produced before the ICT around 11am on Thursday. In his verdict, chief justice Obaidul Hasan held him guilty in five cases of mass murder and crimes against humanity. In two cases, he was sentenced to death. Kamaruzzaman opposed the verdict in court and his counsel Abdur Razzak said he would appeal in the SC. Imran H Sarkar, convener of different mass organizations at Shahbag, welcomed the verdict. Shahbag activists took out a victory rally.
“Today’s verdict is the victory of people. We will continue our movement until all war criminals get highest punishment,” said Sarkar, adding that the movement demanding the ban of the Jamaat would continue. The Jamaat called a nationwide shutdown on Sunday in protest.