A Bangladesh high court ruled on Thursday that Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website, in Bengali; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was illegally registered as a political party and therefore cannot bring forward candidates for the country's January 2014 election. The court stated, however, that JI may be re-registered if it amends its charter and reapplies for registration. The ruling came after a petition asserting that JI's charter breached the constitution [Al Jazeera report] was lodged with the court in 2009. This decision comes as a victory for protesters who have demanded that JI be banned [AFP report] due to its role in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder]. Protests have begun over the court's decision, and are anticipated to continue on. The ruling and subsequent protests came as Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text] stating that at least 150 people have been killed in the country's ongoing protests since February. Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, stated [HRW report] that "[w]ith national elections and more war crimes verdicts ahead, street protests are likely to be frequent and the risk of further violence is high."
The ongoing Bangladesh protests, which began in February, were sparked by International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] sentences against leaders of JI for their role in the country's 1971 war. In January the ICTB sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death [JURIST report]. In February the tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison and sentenced leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedee [JURIST news archive] to death. The death sentence sparked violent protests [JURIST report], which left approximately 30 people dead and 300 wounded. In July the ICTB sentenced 90-year-old former JI leader [JURIST report], Ghulam Azam, to 90 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the war. Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Azam, however, he was instead sentenced to 90 years because of his age and health. Also last month the war crimes tribunal sentenced JI secretary-general [JURIST report], Ali Ahsan Mojaheed, to death for kidnapping and killing people during the war and also charged [JURIST report] ATM Azharul Islam, the assistant secretary-general of the Islamic group, with six war crimes. Azharul's verdict is one of the upcoming war crime decisions expected from the ICTB in the months ahead.