The Supreme Court in Dhaka has confirmed the death sentence for Islamist leader Motiur Rahman Nizami. Nizami was convicted of rape and murdering top intellectuals during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.
Chief Justice S.K. Sinha dismissed Nizami's lawyers' appeal against the death penalty on Thursday morning. According to local news website BD News, the judge entered the court and only uttered the word, "dismissed."
"We're satisfied. Now there is no bar to execute him unless he seeks clemency from the president and the president pardons him," Bangladesh's Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told AFP news agency after the court dismissed the appeal on Thursday.
The Supreme Court first upheld the death penalty for Nizami in January this year, but the Jamaat leader's lawyers filed a final appeal in the court in March. Nizami, who is a member of the conservative opposition party, Jamaat-e-Islami, can now apply for an official pardon by President Mohammed Abdul Hamid as a last resort.
Jamaat-e-Islami members have announced a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest the decision.
The 1971 war of independence
The 73-year-old was a former minister in Khaleda Zia's government and has been in jail since 2010, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established a tribunal to punish offenders in the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
According to Bangladesh's government, around 3 million people were killed and hundreds of thousands of women raped at that time - although inedpendent researchers dispute these figures.
Prosecutors accused Nizami of setting up the pro-Pakistan al-Badr militia, which killed top writers, doctors, journalists and intellectuals during the conflict. Four opposition politicians, including three leaders from Nizami's party, have been convicted and executed by the tribunal so far. Their convictions in 2013 triggered clashes between Islamists and the police, killing hundreds of people.
Nizami's verdict comes amid sectarian violence in Bangladesh, with a teacher, two gay activists and a Hindu citizen murdered in the last two weeks alone. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed the upsurge in violence on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami, although the group denies having any links with the attackers.
mg/msh (Reuters, AFP, epd, AP)