Bangladesh braced for clashes as Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah is sentenced to death

Violent scenes expected after court overturns life term for war criminal and orders his hanging

Asia Correspondent

Bangladesh’s security forces are braced for unrest after the country’s highest court issued a death sentence for an Islamist leader convicted of war crimes – a move that sparked protests by his supporters and the potential for further clashes on Wednesday.

In a decision that lawyers for Abdul Kader Mullah said was highly political, the country’s Supreme Court changed the Islamist leader’s sentence from life imprisonment to hanging. The 65-year-old had been convicted earlier this year of crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s brutal war of independence in 1971.

“Never before in the history of Bangladesh, when a trial court refused to give the death sentence [has] the final court [then] given the death sentence,” Mullah’s main lawyer, Abdur Razzaq, told The Independent.

Mullah, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, had been found guilty in February. At the time, when the court sentenced him to life imprisonment, there were massive protests in Dhaka and other cities from secular groups and ordinary people, demanding that he receive the death penalty.

The demonstrations, and subsequent counter protests from Islamic groups, left up to 100 people dead.

The scale of the “Shahbagh protests”, when scores of thousands of people poured onto the streets, unnerved the government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and led it amend the law to allow prosecutors to appeal against sentences handed down by the courts. Until that point, prosecutors could only appeal if a court acquitted a defendant.

Mullah, who had been dubbed the Butcher of Mirpur, was accused of the murder of hundreds of civilians in a suburb of Dhaka during the war of independence, which saw widescale atrocities. 

Ahead of Tuesday’s decision, announced by a five-member panel headed by chief justice M Muzammel Hossain, lawyers for Mullah, claimed the legal process taking place in Bangladesh to deal with the incidents of 1971, had fallen foul of political influence. They said the trial had also relied on hearsay evidence. Mullah had denied the charges against him.

“The trial process has been shown to be nothing short of a political show trial aimed at removing an Islamist political party, suppressing the opposition and securing the next election for the present Awami League government,” said Toby Cadman, one of Mullah’s international lawyers.

Anywhere up to three million people were killed in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, which was triggered when Pakistan’s military refused to accept the results of democratic elections at the end of 1970 which were won by the Awami League, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the current premier.

The court which is hearing the war crimes cases was set up in 2010 by the current government to deal with those people accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces. Mullah’s party had opposed an independent Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s attorney-general, Mahbube Alam, on Tuesday claimed that there was no option to challenge the ruling but Mullah’s lawyer, Mr Razzaq, said he would file a petition. Mullah can also seek clemency from the president.

Activists who had demonstrated for the death sentence in February, welcomed Tuesday’s decision. Imran Sarkar, a spokesman for the so-called Ganajagaran Mancha, made up of the activists and citizens who had protested in Dhaka’s Shahbagh neighbourhood, told Bdnews24.com: “The verdict has dispelled all our doubts on whether we would get justice.”

But the verdict outraged Mullah’s supporters, some of whom clashed with police in several towns, including Chittagong. Reuters said that five five police were wounded in the port city when activists set fire to a police car and exploded bombs.

Jamaat has also called for a 48-hour nationwide shutdown as of Wednesday morning and the authorities have said they are increasing security in anticipation.

Earlier this year, when another Jamaat leader, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, was given the death sentence, a shutdown claimed the lives of more than 39 people.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution