Skip to main content

Bangladesh high court declares rules against Islamist party

By Farid Ahmed and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
(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
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT