As Jamaat-e-Islami puts up resistance to the war crimes trial, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has described the verdict against Ghulam Azam a “big achievement” and vowed to continue the trial to meet national obligations.
She told Parliament on Tuesday that Ghulam Azam, the former chief of Jamaat, was the mastermind behind crimes against humanity in 1971.
“We are satisfied with the tribunal’s verdict whatever it is. What the punishment should be is the matter of the court,” she said as both the prosecution and the defence announced they would appeal against the verdict.
Azam was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment for leading the anti-Bangladesh forces led by the Pakistan army to oppose the Liberation War. Freedom fighters, pro-liberation political parties and civil society leaders expressed frustration with verdict as they say the punishment was “too soft” on Azam who deserved capital punishment considering his role.
The Hasina government is facing a major political problem, months before the completion of its term as the trial was also opposed by the major opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), a staunch ally of Jamaat, led by Khaleda Zia. Giving an oblique reference to the threats they were facing, she told Parliament that the judges holding trial in the two war crimes tribunals are working “amid life risks”.
Jamaat on Tuesday extended its two-day nationwide hartal by one more day to Wednesday whenthe other war crimes tribunal is to deliver verdict on party’s Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed. At least seven people have been killed and scores of others injured in clashes in the two days of hartal.