Abdul Quader Mollah, a senior official in the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party was hanged on December 12 following a conviction in a controversial special court for war crimes committed 42 years ago. Mollah, 65, was the first person to be sentenced to death by the International Crimes tribunal, a court set up three years ago by the government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who leads the Awami League. All of the defendants are accused of involvement in the killings of intellectuals, political opponents, and secularists in the brutal war of independence in 1971, during which the nation broke away from Pakistan.
Bomb blasts, arson attacks, and clashes with police broke out in Bangladesh on Friday following the execution of a senior opposition politician. Five people were reported to have been killed in street battles between security forces and supporters of Mollah. The wave of violence will further worry observers already concerned by the prospect of chaos in the unstable south Asian state ahead of elections in early January.
The tribunal has been criticized by human rights activists and legal experts as deeply flawed. Most of the defendants are opposition members, leading to charges that the process is politically motivated. A United Nations special envoy recently visited Dhaka, the capital, in a bid to bring deadlocked political parties closer together and halt the slide into violence.
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