10/24/2014, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Ghulam Azam, "spiritual" leader of Bangladesh's Islamic fundamentalists, is dead

by Sumon Corraya
The politician died at the age of 92. He was in prison serving a 90-year sentence for crimes against humanity committed during the War of Liberation from Pakistan (1971). After the war, he launched a campaign to prevent the recognition of Bangladesh by Muslim countries.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Ghulam Azam, the controversial leader of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islam fundamentalist party, died last night at 8 pm after being rushed to Banabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU). He was 92.

In prison since 2013, he was serving a 90-year sentence for crimes against humanity committed during the War of Liberation from Pakistan (1971).

Azam's family, which was given the body, criticised the government for not announcing his death sooner.

Praised as Jamaat's spiritual leader", Ghulam Azam was convicted on 15 July 2013 by an international war crimes tribunal in Dhaka for murder, torture of civilians, conspiracy, incitement and complicity in genocide.

Because of his advanced age, he was spared the death penalty in accordance with the law. Instead, he was given a sentence to 90 years in prison, which triggered strong reactions right away. His party called for a general strike (hartal). Its militants went on a rampage across the country, calling for his acquittal.

By contrast, lay activists from the Gonojagoron Mancha deemed the sentence too light, and called for the death penalty.

Considered "the greatest traitor" in the history of Bangladesh, Ghulam Azam planned all the activities of groups like the Peace Committee, Razakar, al-Badr and al-Shams.

During the War of Independence, he backed the Pakistan Army against the forces of liberation.

After the war, he went abroad looking for support from other Muslim countries to prevent them from not recognising the newly formed People's Republic of Bangladesh.

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