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Strike over war crimes trial hits Bangladesh

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Posted: Feb 4, 2013 10:57 PM

Updated: Feb 4, 2013 10:57 PM

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) The verdict against a top leader of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party was being read Tuesday as the group enforced a general strike to protest his prosecution and others on charges of crimes against humanity during the nation's 1971 independence war.

Judge Obaidul Hasan was reading out the 131-page judgment against Abdul Quader Mollah at a crowded court in central Dhaka, ATN News and Ekattar Television reported.

Mollah and five other leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party have been on trial before Dhaka's International Crimes Tribunal. They have been accused of committing atrocities during the nine-month war against Pakistan more than 40 years ago.

Jamaat-e-Islami a key partner in a former Bangladeshi government says the charges are politically motivated. Authorities deny the claim.

The strike shut down schools and shops and halted most traffic in Dhaka. Jamaat supporters exploded homemade bombs and clashed with police in parts of the capital, leaving several people injured, ATN News said.

Jamaat enforced a similar protest last week. Strikes are a common opposition tactic in Bangladesh to highlight opposition demands.

Jamaat campaigned against Bangladesh's independence war and stands accused of forming several groups to help the Pakistani troops in killing, rape and arson. Until it gained independence in 1971, Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan, and Bangladesh says Pakistani troops aided by local collaborators killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women.

Mollah has been tried on six counts, including playing a role in the killing of 381 unarmed civilians, the prosecution says. He denies the charges.

Last month, the tribunal sentenced former party member Abul Kalam Azad to death in the first war-crimes trial verdict.

International human rights groups have raised questions about the conduct of the tribunals, including the disappearance of a defense witness outside the courthouse gates.

Jamaat-e-Islami was a key partner in the former government of Khaleda Zia, a longtime political rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Zia has called the tribunal a farce, while Hasina has urged Zia to stop backing those she says fought against independence.

Topics: AS-Bangladesh-War Crimes

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