The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 5 handed down its second verdict, sentencing Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to life in prison. This sentence comes a week after televangelist Abul Kalam Azad, also known as "Bachchu Razakar," was sentenced to death. Both were indicted for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
Thousands of Bangladeshi workers blocked the streets of the Savar industrial zone near Dhaka Nov. 26, throwing stones at factories and smashing vehicles, to demand justice for 112 people killed in a garment factory fire. Responding to the protests, authorities two days later arrested three managers of the plant. Some 200 factories were closed for the day throughout the Ashulia industrial belt that rings the capital. Although the factory had a total of 335 fire extinguishers and 300 trained employees to fight fire in emergency situations, there was no visible efforts to douse the flames. The fire alarm went off, but witnesses say that a number of doors were locked by the management, preventing workers from escaping.
Authorities in Bangladesh say Muslim rioters over the weekend torched at least a dozen Buddhist temples and some 50 homes, in Cox's Bazar district near the Burmese border (Chittagong division, see map). Authorities said the attacks were prompted by a photo posted on Facebook that showed a local Buddhist trampling on a Koran. (Mizzima, Oct. 2; ANI, Sept. 30) After the rioting, more than 100 Buddhist monks protested at the Bangladeshi embassy in Rangoon, Burma, where a banner read "No Terrorist Muslim War on Religions." Hundreds of Buddhist monks also demonstrated in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP, Oct. 5; VOA, Oct. 4)
Tribal communities across Bangladesh on Aug. 9 observed the International Day of the World's Indigenous People with rallies to demand their constitutional recognition as "indigenous people." An especially large mobilization was held in Rangamati in the southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts. (See map.) The protests were a reaction to recent statements by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni that the tribal peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are "ethnic minorities" and should not be called "indigenous" to the region. Tribal leaders criticized the government for failure to fully implement Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord, reached in 1997 to secure land rights for the region's tribal peoples. "There is regular bloodshed in the hills," said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council. "Either the peace accord in the hills will be implemented or the Jumma people will be extinct."