Bangladesh sentences Islamist leader to death

The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) sentenced (PDF) Islamist leader ATM Azharul Islam to death on Dec. 30 for war crimes committed during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Azharul Islam is the assistant secretary general of the nation's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). He was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass murder, rape and torture, while fighting for Pakistan during the war as a member of the student party Islami Chhatra Sangha. The defense argued that Azharul Islam was only charged with these crimes for "political victimization," but the court stated that it did not find any evidence proving prosecution for political purposes.

It is true that accused A.T.M Azharul Islam is one of the central leaders of a political party i.e. Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh; but the mere fact that a politician perpetrator for an offence does not mean his trial is to be treated as one of the political purposes. Law does not and can not provide impunity to politicians for committing criminal offences particularly the crimes against Humanity. A person can obviously not claim impunity if he advances his political belief by resorting to criminal activities and if he does so; he can not allege that his trial is of political purpose.

He has 30 days from the date of conviction to file an appeal. The JI has called for two days of strikes to cause a nationwide shutdown this week to protest the verdict.

The ICTB, which was established in 2009 under the International Crimes Act, is charged with investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed during the 1971 conflict, in which about 3 million people were killed. Asharul Islam is the 16th person to be convicted by the ICTB, and the 13th to receive a death sentence. Last week the tribunal sentenced the former Bangladeshi Junior Minister to death for genocide and crimes against humanity.

From Jurist, Dec. 30. Used with permission.

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