[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Bangladesh [official website] on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of top Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website; Global Security backgrounder] Vice President Delwar Hossain Sayedee, sentencing him to life behind bars for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder] with Pakistan. Sayedee was convicted last year on counts of murder, rape and persecution of the Hindu community. Demonstrators gathered at Dhaka University to protest the perceived leniency of the sentence, and were met with batons, tear gas and water cannons from the police.
Activists have long called for the banning of the country’s largest Islamist party. In March Bangladeshi investigators moved the government [JURIST report] to ban Islamist party after evidence emerged indicating that Jammat formed armed groups to assist Pakistani forces in the commission of atrocities. On February 10 a prominent Jamaat-e-Islami leader, AKM Yusuf, died [JURIST report] of cardiac arrest while in prison awaiting trial for his role in the 1971 conflict. He was accused of helping to train leaders of the pro-Pakistan paramilitary group called the “Razakars.” Another party leader, Abdus Subhan, was arrested in September and charged [JURIST report] by the tribunal in January for his alleged role. In December the Bangladeshi government executed [JURIST report] Abdul Quader Mullah after conviction for war crimes. Though originally sentenced to life in prison by the tribunal, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced him to death with no opportunity to appeal. The execution sparked widespread protests.