Bangladesh upholds death sentence for opposition leader

Top court rejects Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's appeal against death sentence

Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on a senior opposition politician for war crimes charges during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan on Wednesday, making Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury of the first Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) member to be sentenced for his role in the conflict.

Chowdhury's appeal against the death sentence has been rejected by the top court, two years after he was found guilty of atrocities during the war by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal in the country.

The charges against Chowdhury, who served as an adviser to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, include the killing and deporting of over 200 Hindu minorities, torture and rape. His father was a former Speaker of Pakistan.

He was also found guilty of killing of Awami League leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son.

After the final verdict police increased security in Dhaka the capital of Bangladesh and , Chowdhury's home city of Chittagong, but major protests are not expected as the party was weakened by a major crackdown, AFP reported.

The crackdown had started after the BNP organized a nationwide transport blockade for three months to pressure Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina without success.

Prosecutors described Chowdhury as a merciless killer, during the 2013 trial, AFP reported.

Chowdhury's defence lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told AFP that they will seek a review of the judgement at the same court.

"My father is innocent. One day it will be proved to the people of Bangladesh," Chowdhury's son Hummam told AFP.

Meanwhile hundreds of people celebrated the verdict on the streets in Dhaka and Chittagong.

The BNP calls the trials a politically motivated tool for PM Hasina's Awami League to silence its opponents. The families of Zia and Hasina are known as the “Battling Begums” in the country.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also accused by international human rights groups of using non-democratic means to gain power over the two biggest opposition parties in the country, including the war crimes tribunal.

Hasina has denied the allegations and defended the court's decision, saying they are ensuring justice.

The leader of the other important opposition party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has been convicted by the same tribunal and two leaders of the party have already been executed for war crimes.

The executions triggered tension and mass protests in the country, causing the deaths of hundreds by police.


TRTWorld and agencies