A leader in Bangladesh's main Islamist party was charged on Dec. 31 in connection with war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan. Abdus Subhan, who was arrested last September, was formally charged after Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) conducted an investigation. However, human rights groups say that the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed in that war, does not meet international standards and supporters of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) say the tribunal is used politically to eradicate its leaders. The Bangladesh war of independence caused an estimated 10 million civilians to flee to India, and an estimated 3 million deaths. Subhan has denied all charges.
The Bangladesh government on Dec. 12 executed Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party. Mollah was convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and sentenced to life in prison; however, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced Mollah to death without appeal. Mullah's execution has sparked widespread protests throughout the country, with opposition groups calling for a countrywide strike on Dec. 15.
At least three are dead in clashes as opposition parties attempt to enforce a three-day general strike in Bangladesh, aimed at bringing down the government. All public gatherings have been banned in the main cities of Dhaka and Chittagong, but protesters have repeatedly defied the decree, leading to street-fighting with police and government supporters. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islam are demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina install a caretaker administration to oversee the January general election. Hasina, who heads the ruling Awami League, rejects the demand. Tensions have been growing for months between the secular but increasingly authoritarian Awami League and a radicalizing Islamist opposition. (BBC News, Times of Oman, Oct. 27; Bangladesh News, Oct. 24)
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Oct. 1 sentenced Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a member of parliament for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to death for war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Chowdhury is the first member of the BNP to stand trial for war crimes under the tribunal set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010. He was found guilty on nine of 23 charges stemming from accusations regarding his role in war crimes committed by pro-Pakistan militias. Chowdhury is expected to appeal his conviction in the Supreme Court.
Islamist leader Ghulam Azam, 91, was sentenced to 90 years by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) on July 15 for crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 independence war. The tribunal stated that Azam deserved capital punishment, but was given a prison term because of his advanced age. Bangladesh maintains that Pakistan's army killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women with the assistance of local collaborators during the war. From 1969 to 2000, Azam was the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is accused of organizing the collaborationist attacks. He is the third Islamist leader to be convicted in recent months for violence in the 1971 war. At least three people died in clashes in Dhaka after the verdict was announced. (AP, NYT, BBC News, AFP, Al Jazeera, July 15)
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, an angry May Day march descended on the city center with drums, red flags, and chants of "Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners!" In Jakarta, Indonesia, some of the tens of thousands of marchers were dressed as ants—complete with bright red outfits and antennae—to depict the exploitation of workers. In Hong Kong, the ranks of marchers were swollen past 10,000 by striking dockworkers and their supporters. In Greece, transport came to a halt as thousands of public-sector workers walked off the job in a one-day strike. May Day protests in downtown Seattle turned violent, with police using pepper spray to disperse anarchists who pelted them with rocks, bottles, metal pipes, fireworks and a skateboard. (CSM, CNN, AFP, SCMP, May 1)
Garment workers in Bangladesh walked off the job, blocked roads, attacked factories and smashed vehicles April 26, paralyzing at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka. Some 1,500 workers, many armed with bamboo sticks, marched to the Dhaka headquarters of the main manufacturers association. The uprising began when police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at anxious relatives as they massed at the site of a collapsed factory where resuce workers were attempting to dig out their loved ones trapped under rubble. About 3,000 people are thought to have been in the Rana Plaza complex in Savar industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka, when it collapsed on the morning of April 24 shortly after the workday started. Only some 60 have been found alive; some 1,000 are thought to have escaped unharmed. The complex housed factories that made clothes for retail chains Benetton, Primark, Matalan, Children's Place, Cato Fashions, Mango and others.
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 28 sentenced to death Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedee. Following the death sentence, violence between police and activists from Sayeedee's party ensued throughout the country resulting in at least 30 deaths while more than 300 were wounded. Sayeedee was found guilty by the court for mass killing, rape, arson, looting and forcing minority Hindus to convert to Islam during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. He is the third senior party official convicted by the international tribunal. Defense counsel stated that he will appeal the sentence. Sayeedee is a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh and one of the leaders of the JI Bangladesh. He has been charged with 20 crimes contained in the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, including genocide, arson, rape and torture.