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Bangladesh MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to hang for war crimes

By bbc | October 1st 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

An MP for Bangladesh's main opposition party has been sentenced to death by a war crimes court for charges including murder and genocide during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, the first member of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) to be tried by the court, was found guilty of nine out of 23 charges.

The BNP has consistently argued that the trial is politically motivated.

Previous verdicts against Islamist leaders have been followed by protests.

The war crimes tribunal was set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010 and opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents.

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Human rights groups have also said the tribunal falls short of international standards.

Security was tight in Dhaka where the verdict was being heard and also in Chittagong, the home district of Chowdhury, where there is likely to be anger at the verdict.

Analysts say the tribunal's verdicts have exposed profound divisions in Bangladeshi society.

Last month when the Supreme Court gave the death penalty to a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Kader Mullah, there were demonstrations both for and against the decision.

The sentences handed down to its leaders over the last few months have unleashed a wave of unrest, pitting supporters of Jamaat against pro-government groups.

Chowdhury is the first sitting MP to be sentenced by the tribunal. Better known as Saqa, he is a member of the BNP's main policy-making body.

Prosecutors accused Chowdhury of genocide, abduction, committing atrocities against Hindus and forcefully converting a number of Hindus to Islam.

The prosecution also says that his father's residence in Chittagong was turned into a torture cell during the war.

The special court was set up in 2010 by the current Bangladeshi government to deal with those accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who attempted to stop East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was then) from becoming an independent country.

Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed during the independence war. Other researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.


 


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