05/09/2013, 00.00
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Bangladesh Islamist leader sentenced to death, raising fear of more violence

by Nozrul Islam
The vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami stood accused of torture and mass murder committed during the War of Liberation of 1971. "The ongoing violence and extremism in the name of religion are killing peace and harmony in Bangladesh," the archbishop of Dhaka said in a message to the country's Catholics.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - A new death sentence is likely to exacerbate the tensions that have risen across Bangladesh in the past three months. This morning, a military court has imposed the death penalty on Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami, an opposition Islamic party. The politician was charged with torture, rape and mass murder committed during the country's War of Liberation in 1971. This is the third death sentence issued by a military court.

Set up by Prime Minister and Awami League Sheikh Hasina, military courts are trying crimes committed by members of the Jamaat during the war that led to the independence of Bangladesh.

Such verdicts have generated anger among supporters of the Islamist party. In response to court decisions, some Islamic groups have organised a general strike (hartal), sparking continuing violence across the country. The latest resulted in clashes with police and the death of 22 people with hundreds of more people injured, raising concerns that tensions might get even worse.

In view of recent events, Mgr Patrick D'Rozario CSC, archbishop of Dhaka, sent a message to all the Catholics of Bangladesh.

In his letter, the prelate wrote, "We are concerned about the attacks and violence against religious harmony, minorities and places of worship that have taken place recently in our country. The current political unrest, continuous violence and extremism in the name of religion are killing peace and harmony in Bangladesh."

"Religion," the archbishop explained, "is patient. Religion is great," he added, "and if believers respect it, they will never harm their neighbours. This means carrying the burden of difficulties and problems on one's shoulders. When difficulties materialise, we must take a stand and look forward to better and more effective solutions. "

In his message, Mgr D'Rozario also refers to tragedies like that of Rana Plaza, which cost nearly a thousand lives according to the latest figures, or the one that occurred this morning.

Reiterating what the executive director of Caritas Bangladesh told AsiaNews, the archbishop also noted that "We must all feel responsible for what happened" because "everyone deserves equal dignity and equal rights."

(Sumon Francis Gomes contributed to the article)


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