DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A Bangladesh court has disqualified the country's largest Islamic party from taking part in the next general election, saying it opposes secularism.
The High Court panel ruled Thursday that the opposition Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party's regulations violate the constitutional provision of secularism.
The ruling comes four years after a group of citizens filed a petition seeking to cancel Jamaat's registration with the Election Commission, saying the party wants to introduce Islamic Shariah law in the Muslim-majority country.
Jamaat's lawyer said it will appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.
The ruling came amid calls to ban the party for opposing the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan. Four top party leaders have been tried and sentenced to either death or life imprisonment on charges of war crimes linked to the war.
Several others, including the party's secretary general, Motiur Rahman Nizami, are still on trial.
Jamaat has been accused of collaborating with the Pakistan army in atrocities during the nine-month war, in which Bangladesh says 3 million people died, 200,000 women were raped and nearly 1 million people fled to neighboring India.
The party was banned after Bangladesh's independence in 1971 for its alleged role in the mass killings and atrocities. The ban was lifted in 1976, a year after Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was slain in a military coup.
Jamaat is now an ally of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Jamaat was in Zia's government in 2001-2006.
Swadhin Malik, a senior lawyer, said Thursday's ruling does not ban Jamaat as a political party. "But it has disallowed the party from participating in the next general election," he said. He said the party can carry out political activities like holding rallies, but can't take part in any election.
Bangladesh's next general election is due early next year.