We are now in day 5 of the ongoing anti-Jamaat rallies that have swept Bangladesh, with the largest one attracting more than 200,000 protesters in Dhaka.
Hundreds of thousands of people rallied Friday in Bangladesh’s capital to demand executions for people convicted of war crimes involving the nation’s independence war in 1971.
The protesters in Dhaka urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to review a verdict sentencing a senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami to life in prison for killings and other crimes.
The protesters said the life term was not enough as Abdul Quader Mollah was found by a tribunal guilty of five charges, including playing a role in the killing of 381 unarmed civilians.
The government will appeal the sentence. A defence lawyer says they will also appeal seeking an acquittal for Mollah, whose verdict is the second after Hasina came to power through a 2008 election and formed a tribunal to try those suspected of war crimes during the war. Both sides have 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The life sentence comes after a former party member was sentenced to death last month.
The exact number of the protesters was difficult to know but streets near Dhaka University were filled with 1971 fighters, students, political activists, teachers and people from various walks of life. Some organizers put the number at up to 200,000, and Anjan Roy, a television talk show moderator who lost more than a dozen family members and relatives in 1971, told The Associated Press that more than 100,000 joined the rally.
Hours after Tuesday’s verdict by an International Crimes Tribunal, protesters burst into the street, denouncing the verdict. They have been protesting non-stop since while planning for Friday’s mass rally.
Many of the younger protesters said they were not happy with the verdict.
“We will not return home unless we get justice, complete justice,” said Shakil Ahmed, a college student. “I did not see 1971, but those who killed our people and helped Pakistani troops in their effort to halt the creation of Bangladesh should be hanged,” he said.
Says blogger, Kazi Sudipto:
“While the International War Crimes Tribunal is making their decision for war criminals of 1971, the young generation has engaged themselves on a tremendous protest against the war criminals , Jamat-e-islami and Islami chattro shibir . Thousands of people are roaring against them at Shahbag”
Here is a video of the one of the largest popular protests in the Bangladesh’s 42 year history:
“We want the death verdict of the War Criminals” they chant. This is public opinion and they said that the War Crimes Tribunal had no public mandate.