Mohammad Qamaruzzaman, an assistant secretary general of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, has been convicted of "crimes against humanity." He could be the second person to be put to death for war crimes in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Monday upheld the verdict and rejected Qamaruzzaman's plea to have his death sentence reviewed.
The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), set up by the Bangladeshi government four years ago, sentenced 62-year-old Mohammad Qamaruzzaman to death for his role in mass killings, torture and abduction during the independence war against Pakistan in 1971. Qamaruzzaman's Jamaat was among the factions that opposed a break with Pakistan.
The "crime against humanity'"for which Qamaruzzaman was given the death penalty relates to mass killings in Sohagpur village of Sherpur district - "the village of the widows" - in the year that Bangladesh earned independence.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that he did not see any legal bar for the government to execute Qamaruzzaman after the four-member panel's verdict, though the condemned could still seek presidential clemency within a "logical timeframe."
Qamaruzzaman's advocate Shishir Monir told DW's Bengali service: "We shall take a decision regarding the next legal step after we have met him. It will be up to him whether he asks for clemency."
Qamaruzzaman's son Hasan Iqbal told DW: "The members of the family will be given the opportunity to meet him (Qamaruzzaman) after his lawyers have spoken with him."
One prior execution
Monir expressed the fear that "the authorities are making preparations to execute" Qamaruzzaman.
Law Minister Anisul Haq also told reporters that Qamaruzzaman "will be executed as soon as possible" if he refuses to seek presidential clemency.
Only one Islamist has been hanged after a verdict by one of the two tribunals up till now, which were set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - whose late father is regarded as having led Bangladesh's independence movement - in 2010. Jamaat leader Abdul Qader Molla was executed on December 12, 2013, after his appeal for review had been rejected. Another Jamaat leader's death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment on review.
The war crimes trials reflect the tensions and the conflict between the secular-progressive and the conservative-religious forces within Bangladeshi society - accompanied by protests and violence.
Bangladeshi TV stations have reported unrest in the southern Noakhali district immediately after the ruling. One young Jamaat supporter has been killed in clashes with the police, it has been reported.
The Jamaat-e-Islami party has given out the call for a 48 hour general strike for the whole of the country, spread over the next two days.
ac/rc (AFP, AP, DW)