At least 42 persons were killed as riots continued following the death sentence handed down to Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee. Sayedee was convicted on Thursday of for mass killings, rape and atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.
The Jamaat leader’s supporters clashed with the police, attacked government offices and uprooted railway tracks in parts of the country. Protesters also set fire to dozens of houses belonging to pro-government supporters. Police responded with bullets and tear gas.
Police and witnesses said on Friday that 42 people, including six policemen, had been killed.
The government said the security forces were put on high alert across the country as Jamaat and Sayedee’s supporters planned more protests on Friday. An additional 10,000 paramilitary border guards were deployed to boost security, the Home Ministry said.
In a statement Friday, Jamaat asked its supporters to converge in the country’s mosques to offer a special mass prayer for those killed during the violence. Authorities fear that the mass prayer may turn into street protests.
Sayedee, 73, was convicted on eight of the 20 charges against him. Prosecutor Syed Haider Ali said he was satisfied with the verdict. “Justice has been done to those who lost their loved ones at the hands of Sayedee,” he said.
A teacher at an Islamic seminary school when he allegedly committed the crimes, Sayedee is the third defendant to be convicted of war crimes by the special tribunal set up in 2010. Jamaat, the largest Islamic party in Bangladesh, campaigned against Bangladesh’s independence, but denies it was behind any atrocities.
Jamaat is an ally of the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by ex-Preme Minister Khaleda Zia and was a partner in her government during 2001-2006.