Abdul Kader Mollah in a police van after the verdict in Dhaka on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Dhaka, Feb. 5 (Agencies): A top leader of Bangladesh’s hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party was today sentenced to life by a special tribunal here for “crimes against humanity” during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, sparking riots that killed one person.
“He (Abdul Kader Mollah) will serve life term,” the chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal, Justice Obaidul Hassan, said. Mollah is the assistant secretary general of the party.
According to the judgment, five of the six charges against Mollah, 65, were proved during the trial.
Earlier, Mollah was brought to the court under heavy security. After the verdict, Jamaat supporters clashed with police in parts of Dhaka, leaving one dead and several injured. A man was killed in a gunfight between police and protesters in Chittagong during a strike called by the Jamaat.
This was the second such judgment by the tribunal in less than three weeks after it awarded the death penalty on January 17 to fugitive Jamaat leader, Abul Kalam Azad, who hosted Islamic programmes in a private TV channel.
Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, along with fellow party leader Muhammad Qamaruzzaman in front of the Supreme Court.
The tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012, on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attack directed upon unarmed civilians, “causing commission of the horrific” genocides, murders and rapes.
Attorney-general Mahbube Alam said the verdict “upset us as we expected the capital punishment for the crimes he committed”. The defence counsels were not available for comment.
Alam said the state would decide later if it will file an appeal against the judgment after a detailed review.
Meanwhile, authorities ordered a nationwide security alert as Jamaat activists torched several vehicles and attacked buses in Dhaka and several other cities.
The Jamaat has vowed to paralyse the country in protest against a tribunal that it says is politically biased. Shops and businesses were shut and the streets were mostly empty in the capital as the Jamaat enforced a national strike against the verdict.
Mollah made a “V” for victory sign while getting into a car after the verdict.
Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but it broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, who were backed by India, and Pakistani forces.
Some factions in Bangladesh opposed the break with Pakistan and numerous abuses were committed during the nine-month war.
Hundreds of war veterans thronged outside the Dhaka court as the verdict was delivered, demanding that Mollah be put to death.
Another 10 people are awaiting trial by the tribunal.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses during the conflict that claimed about 3 million lives and during which thousands of women were raped.
But critics say the Prime Minister is using the tribunal against members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat.
Begum Khaleda Zia, Hasina’s arch rival and leader of the BNP, has called the tribunal a “farce”. The ruling party has rejected accusations that the tribunal is biased.