Bangladesh MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to Hang for War Crimes
Dhaka – 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 and his lawyers argue that the trial was 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. Tribunal’s Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said: “We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that troubled the collective conscience of mankind.”
But human rights groups and the BNP have both said that the tribunal falls short of international standards. “We will do whatever we need to do to show the world that this is a farce,” the Reuters news agency quoted Chowdhury’s wife, Farhat Quader Chowdhury, as saying immediately afterwards.
Mr Chowdhury’s lawyers say that they will appeal against the conviction at the Supreme Court. The BBC’s Mahfuz Sadique – who was in court – says that Mr Chowdhury repeatedly interrupted the tribunal judges as they delivered their two-and-a-half hour verdict. “This judgement came from the [law] ministry. A copy of the verdict has been available on the internet since yesterday,” Mr Chowhury cried out after the announcement of his conviction and sentencing had been finally completed.
Our correspondent says that Mr Chowdury’s lawyer also claimed that the verdict was a foregone conclusion – but allegations that it was available online beforehand are impossible to substantiate. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam has dismissed the allegations as “out of the question, incorrect… and merely an assumption”.
Lawyers sympathetic to the BNP meanwhile are reported to have threatened to “try everyone connected” with the war crimes tribunal once the party returns to power. Senior BNP official Khandker Mahabub Hossain said: “Everyone related with the trial will be tried some day on this soil.” (BBC)