Skip to main content

Bangladesh high court declares rules against Islamist party

By Farid Ahmed and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
(File photo) Police charge a suspected Jamaat-e-Islami activist during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on February 6, 2013.
(File photo) Police charge a suspected Jamaat-e-Islami activist during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on February 6, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jamaat is one of two main opposition parties
  • With ban, it can't take part in upcoming general election
  • The petition says Jamaat is religiously-steeped
  • The potential for violence is all-too-real

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Bangladesh's high court has declared the registration of the country's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, illegal.

Jamaat is one of two main opposition parties and a constant thorn in the side of the ruling Awami League.

With the declaration, Jamaat will not be able to take part in the country's upcoming general election -- certainly welcome news to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Opinion: Bangladesh on the brink

But such a ruling can also reignite a fresh round of political unrest in the South Asian nation.

Drumbeat gets louder

Jaamat enjoys considerable support, particularly in rural areas. And periodically, it will summon the masses to swarm the capital city, Dhaka, as a reminder.

But in recent months, the drumbeat to ban Jamaat has gotten louder, especially from progressive groups that point to the party's role during Bangladesh's struggle for independence in the early 1970s.

Read more: Bangladesh Islamists rally for blasphemy law

Between one million and 3 million people were killed in the nine-month war.

In 2010, Bangladesh set up a court that it called the International Crimes Tribunal to bring to justice those it accused in the massacre.

Among those the court has convicted of crimes against humanity are several top Jamaat leaders.

Jamaat acknowledges that it opposed Bangladesh's struggle for independence, but it has decried what it calls a smear campaign.

It has also questioned why the ruling Awami League is only now pressing forward on war crimes trials when it didn't do so while in power during the 1970s and 1990s.

A petition to ban

The court case calling for its ban resulted from a petition filed in 2009 by Bangladesh Tariquat Foundation, a Sufi organization that wants to make Bangladesh a secular nation.

Read more: American says he would die for justice in Bangladesh

The petition said Jamaat is a religiously-steeped political entity that actively worked to undermine the independence movement.

The Awami League has sided with those calling for a ban.

"We're examining all possible ways of doing it," the law minister said in February.

Fear of violence

But the fear of violence igniting from such a ruling is all-too-real.

Every time one of Jamaat's top leaders have been convicted by the war crimes tribunals, angry Jamaat supporters have clashed with police.

Since February, at least 150 protesters have been killed and at least 2,00 wounded in such clashes, the Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday.

The group laid the blame on security personnel using excessive force.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
About $35,000 was taken from the bank accounts of four passengers on board Flight 370.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1732 GMT (0132 HKT)
The execution of a journalist by a British-accented jihadist is a direct challenge to the international community. It's time for the U.S. to move, writes Frida Ghitis.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT