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Shahbag Square: Protests against war crimes
2013

On February 5, 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) of Bangladesh sentenced Abdul Kader Mollah to life imprisonment after he was proven guilty of five out of the six charges against him. Within hours of the verdict, mass discontent broke out in Bangladesh because most people were expecting capital punishment for Mollah. In addition, there was concrete fear that the life sentence was part of a "back door" deal, which would allow Mollah to later be released as part of some alliance between Awami League and the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The bloggers and online activists gave a voice to the public opinion and called for a mass demonstration at the Shahbag intersection in central Dhaka. They had organized such demonstrations in the past on other topics, but this time something was different.

During the ten following days, people from all layers of society joined the protest in Shahbag. On Feb 15th, Rajib Haider, a young architect and blogger famous under the nick-name ‘Thaba Baba,’ was brutally stabbed to death by five students of North South University under the instructions of an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader. "They said killing Rajib was their Iman (religious obligation).” After Rajib’s death, another activist Shaniur Rahman was stabbed, and a prosecution witness against the war criminals was found dead. The web is widening, as a prosecution witness' brother was found dead, and the son of a Shahbagh organizer was also killed. All by "mysterious hands" but suspicion immediately turned to Jamaat-e-Islami in each case.

Things took a new turn after the death sentence of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, the vice-president of Jamaat-e-Islami, for war crimes during the liberation war of 1971. Members of Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chatra Shibir (ICS) launched violent protests against the Sayedee sentence, attacking police and journalists, smashing public vehicles and setting off Molotov cocktails. This resulted in the deaths of about 60 people, most of them Jamaat-Shibir activists, along with police and civilians.

In 1971 it was the present top tier members of Jamat-e-Islami who ran death squads– they were directly involved in assisting to kill lakhs of people, assisting in mass rapes, and planning and killing the intellectuals from all spheres in the last days of the war.

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