By Shafiqul Alam, AFP
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A media tycoon who is a key figure in Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party was sentenced to death Sunday for war crimes, just days after its leader was ordered to hang for similar offenses. A war crimes court found wealthy businessman Mir Quashem Ali, an official of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, guilty of 10 charges including murder and abduction during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Ali, 63, stood up and loudly protested the verdict as the head judge announced the sentence in a packed courtroom. ��It’s a motivated judgment,�� he said, accusing the court of acting on instructions from the secular government. Ali, who owns a television station and newspaper aligned with Jamaat, was convicted of running a torture cell of a pro-Pakistani militia that carried out killings �X including that of a young independence fighter. ��The country and the affected people have finally got justice. Mir Quashem Ali has been sentenced to death for the murder of a teenage freedom fighter, Jashim,�� prosecutor Ziad Al Malum told reporters. ��The young boy was abducted and his body was thrown in the Karnaphuli River,�� he said.
Jamaat’s top leader Motiur Rahman Nizami was on Wednesday sentenced to death for heading a militia in 1971, a decision that sparked protests by supporters. Jamaat called a nationwide strike following Nizami’s verdict. The stoppage was still in effect Sunday, with many schools and businesses closed and traffic thin. The party announced another strike for Thursday in protest at Ali’s death sentence.
Similar judgments against other Jamaat officials last year plunged the country into one of its worst crises. Tens of thousands of Jaamat activists clashed with police in various protests that left some 500 people dead. Ali, also a shipping and real estate tycoon, became the eight Islamist sentenced to death by the controversial war crimes court, set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government in 2010. Fresh protests are expected after the Supreme Court announced Sunday it would deliver judgment on Monday on an appeal by Jamaat’s assistant secretary general, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, against his death sentence.