By: Eko Armunanto
Bangladeshi activists attended a rally to demand the execution of Jemaah Islamiah leader Abdul Quader Mollah and others convicted of war crimes involving the nation's independence war in 1971 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Rajib Haider, the initiator of the movement who wrote a blog devoted to them, was attacked outside his home Friday night after returning from that rally in Shahbag Square. Haider's family said he was stabbed to death for standing up to Islamists and drawing people to the protests. Police said they had detained five suspects.
Some expatriate Bangladeshis have flown home to support the call for the death penalty. Children have been filmed with the slogan "We want death by hanging" painted across their cheeks and torsos. Jon Boone's report for The Guardian said the rally was involving hundreds of thousands who has been camped on the streets for 10 days demanding the execution of war criminals. It described the movement as Bangladesh's Tahrir Square. "On Saturday, an even larger crowd thronged the square to attend funeral prayers for Haider, many vowing to avenge his death or breaking down in tears as his coffin passed", Anis Ahmed told CNN.
Abdul Quader Mollah was found guilty this month of crimes including massacres, torture and rapes during Bangladesh's bloody war of independence from Pakistan in 1971, another eight members of Mollah's Jemaah Islamiah party are also on trial, as are two members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, including a former government minister. The estimation was that anywhere between 300,000 and 3 million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their allied local militias. Bangladesh formed the eastern part of Pakistan until it gained independence in 1971.
Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was elected Prime Minister on a platform of making the prosecution of war crimes a priority of her government - Bangladeshis were angered that Quader Mollah was only given a life sentence. Public fury grew further when Mollah, nicknamed the "Butcher of Mirpur" for his crimes, flashed a "V" for victory sign when he came out of the courtroom. Jemaah Islamiah said the war-crimes trials were being carried out with ill political motive as it begun after more than 40 years of independence, while demonstrators vowed to continue protesting at Shahbagh and asked the government to ban Jemaah Islamiah, which sided with Pakistan and opposed the 1971 founding of Bangladesh.