Ghulam Azam

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1) War crimes: Bangla jails Jamaat boss

Ghulam Azam, 91, Given 90-Year Term; Spared Death Penalty In View Of Age And Health


The Times of India 2013/07/16

2) Bangladesh Sentences Islamist, 91, to 90 Years for Crimes in ’71 War


The New York Times 2013/07/16

A brief biography/ HITLER OF 1971?

Ghulam Azam, one-time political science professor, dabbled with left-wing politics before joining the Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1950s

Leads the party during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971 and plays a ‘pivotal role’ in creating pro-Pakistani militias like Rajakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Peace Committee. The militias are blamed for many of the war-time atrocities, including killing of many intellectuals

Mr. Azam was part of a dedicated group of Islamists who were opposed to the Bangladeshi independence movement and actively collaborated with Pakistani military officials, the court found. Until 2000, he was the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, a small but well-organized Islamist party. (NYT)

After the war, flees to Pakistan; leaves Pakistan for London in 1973

When Pakistan lost the war, Mr. Azam moved abroad and formed a government-in-exile in London called the East Pakistan Restoration Committee.(NYT)

After independence, Bangladesh cancels his citizenship and bans Jamaat and other faith-based parties

Azam returns home bearing a Pakistani passport in 1978, three years after the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and taking over of an army backed regime which allows Islamic parties to operate openly again

Supreme court returns his citizenship. After the judgment, he apologizes for his past activities but falls short of offering a full apology for his war-time role

Plays kingmaker after democracy is restored in 1990, allowing Khaleda Zia-led BNP to come to power In 1996, allies with Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina and helps her force Zia to resign and accept a caretaker govt

Before quitting politics in 2000, helps Jamaat align with BNP, which wins the 2001 polls. Two ministers from Jamaat included in the cabinet

Hasina returns to power in 2009 and vows to set up a war crimes tribunal

Azam arrested in January 2012

Mr. Azam was charged with directing atrocities that resulted in deaths and torture, and the court cited news reports from the time to demonstrate that Mr. Azam had been intimately involved in suppressing the Bengali independence movement. Mr. Azam’s lawyers responded that, as a politician, he had not been directly involved in killings or torture and that the procedures and documents used by the war crimes court were improper.

Since his arrest in January 2012, Mr. Azam has been largely confined to a prison cell at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, but allowed home-cooked food. (NYT)

Given 90-Year Term; Spared Death Penalty

The leader of Bangladesh’s fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, who prosecutors likened to Adolf Hitler, was in July 2013 sentenced, by a Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal, to 90 years in jail for masterminding atrocities during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan in which around 3 million people were killed and (NYT adds) more than 200,000 women raped, and when an estimated 10 million people fled to India. Several more such verdicts are expected in the coming months.

The sentence drew fury from those who found the punishment either too harsh or too weak.

Ghulam Azam, an aged but still powerful Islamist, was convicted on all five major counts against him, including murder, conspiracy, and incitement and complicity to genocide.

The 91-year-old wheelchair-bound Ghulam Azam, the wartime head of Jamaat and now its spiritual leader, was spared the death penalty because of his age and health. He was found guilty by the International Crimes Tribunal on five charges, including murder and torture.

Azam was the fifth Jamaat leader to be sentenced for war crimes but his was the most awaited verdict in a country swept by the anti-fundamentalist Shahbag movement.

Divisive war trials

The trials and the verdicts, part of a long-delayed reckoning with Bangladesh’s birth, have led to violent strikes and deep unrest in Bangladesh pitting members of Jamaat-e-Islami against youthful progressives who have demanded death sentences for the Islamist leaders.

Each side in the fight has repeatedly called for strikes that have paralyzed the country and wounded its economy.

Not physically present during the crimes

“Ghulam Azam’s case is a unique one. Ghulam Azam was not physically present during these crimes but he has been accused of being the main man and overseer of the war crimes in 1971,” Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal-1, said.

“He will serve 90 years in jail,” the judge added, reading out portions of a 75-page judgment in a packed courtroom. Azam sat through the proceedings stony-faced.

The judge said Azam deserved the death penalty for the crimes he committed in collusion with Pakistani forces but the 90-year jail term was given in view of his age and physical condition. Azam, the court ruled, held “superior responsibility” for atrocities by militias, which he helped create to support the Pakistan army. “It has been proved that Ghulam Azam was the architect of the militia groups, including Peace Committee, Al Badr and Razakar,” Justice Kabir said.

Prosecutors sought death penalty for Azam, describing him as a “lighthouse” who guided all war criminals. When India intervened at the end of the nine-month war and it became clear Pakistan was losing, the militias killed dozens of professors, playwrights, filmmakers, doctors and journalists.

See also

1971 War: The role, and tilt, of the USA

Choudhury Mueenuddin

Ghulam Azam

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