by Staff Writers
Dhaka, Bangladesh (UPI) Oct 2, 2013
A war crimes court in Bangladesh has sentenced an opposition MP to death for his part in murder and genocide during the 1971 war of independence.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party member of Parliament for Chittagong, was found guilty of nine of 23 charges relating to crimes against humanity, the Bangladeshi Internet news site bdnews24.com reported.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 pronounced the verdict, specifically citing murder, genocide and torture during the conflict when East Pakistan -- as Bangladesh was then called -- fought for independence from West Pakistan, now called Pakistan.
Chowdhury is the son of Pakistani Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, who fought against the separation of East Pakistan.
Chowdhury allegedly committed the crimes against Hindus, members of the Awami League political party and supporters of independence in 1971.
Prosecutors also accused him of forcefully converting Hindus to Islam and turning his father's house in Chittagong into a place of torture.
Chowdhury's wife said after the verdict she and her legal team "would do whatever we need to do to show the world that this is a farce."
The court's verdict immediately was condemned by Chowdhury's family and supporters, bdnews24 reported.
Ahsanul Haque Hina, defense lawyer for Chowdhury, said he will appeal the sentence.
"I will not comment on the verdict," he said. "Yes, we will appeal."
Shahadat Hossain, general secretary of the BNP's Chittagong constituency, called for a daylong general strike to protest the verdict.
"Chowdhury's judgment is politically motivated," he told bdnews24.
The tribunal was set up by the Awami League government in 2010 to try people suspected of collaborating with Pakistani forces.
But opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents, the BBC reported.
"We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind," tribunal chairman Justice Fazle Kabir said.
Chowdhury repeatedly interrupted the judge during his 2 1/2-hour summing up that ended with a sentence of death by hanging.
Afterward, Chowdhury's supporters attacked governing party activists, smashing and burning vehicles in Chittagong and Dhaka, police said.
At least one person was injured in Chittagong, the BBC reported.
Rights group Amnesty International welcomes the trials of people suspected of crimes against humanity, but condemned the death sentence.
"The many victims of horrific abuses during Bangladesh's independence war and their families have long deserved justice, but the death penalty is not the answer," Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh researcher at Amnesty International, said.
"One human rights abuse can't make amends for another. Bangladesh must overturn the death sentence against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and all others.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment and can never be a way to deliver justice," he said.
The Amnesty statement also noted of the seven people the tribunal has sentenced so far, five received the death penalty and are able to appeal to the country's Supreme Court.
The five include Chowdhury and four members of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party.
The two other people sentenced received imprisonment.
But one of the imprisoned, Abdul Quader Mollah, who was given a life sentence in February, had his sentence increased to death by the Supreme Court, following an appeal by the government. He can't appeal his death sentence because there is no higher court to hear an appeal.
Democracy in the 21st century at TerraDaily.com
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