A tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced a senior member of the Islamist party to death for atrocities committed during the country’s 1971 independence war. He is the 16th person to be convicted in the war crimes inquiry.
The war crimes tribunal handed down its decision in Dhaka on Tuesday, after finding A.T.M Azharul Islam guilty of five out of six charges including abduction, torture, rape and the mass killing unarmed civilians.
A three-member panel of judges ordered he be "hanged by the neck" for the genocide of more than 1,200 people in the northern district of Rangpur during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.
The prosecutor argued Islam, the assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was a commander of the Al-Badr militia group, which teamed up with Pakistan's military to crack down on fighters campaigning for Bangladesh's independence.
"No doubt, it was mass murder," presiding judge Enayetur Rahim told a packed court.
Defence lawyer Tajul Islam rejected the charges and said he would lodge an appeal against the verdict.
"Azharul Islam was a 19-year-old student during the war and in no way was involved in war crime. The charges against him are false and fabricated," the lawyer said.
Inquiry into war crimes
Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947, but broke away in 1971 after a war between India-backed Bangladeshi nationalists and Pakistani forces. According to official figures, around 3 million people died during the nine-month conflict. An estimated 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India.
While Hasina has called the trials a long-overdue effort to get justice for victims' families, Jamaat-e-Islami - a key part of the opposition coalition which openly campaigned against independence - says they are politically motivated and aim to persecute its leadership.
nm/es (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)