A special tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced to death a senior leader of the largest Islamist party, the second capital sentence in a week for the mass killings during the nation’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
After the judge in the packed Dhaka courtroom read the sentence, Mir Quashem Ali protested, calling the witnesses who gave evidence against him “fake”.
The 62-year-old is a member of Jamaat-e-Islami party’s highest policy making body and considered to be one of the party’s top financiers.
Last week, the court sentenced to death the party’s leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, for the 1971 war crimes. Another senior leader has already been hanged.
In protest, Jamaat-e-Islami party enforced a nationwide general strike today, though no violence was reported. The court’s previous verdicts have triggered street violence.
Bangladesh accuses Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of three million people during the nine-month 1971 war. Some 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India.
The tribunal found Ali guilty on eight charges, two of which carried a death sentence, including the abduction of a young man and his killing in a torture cell. He was also sentenced to 72 years in prison on the other charges.
His lawyers said they would appeal.
Since 2010, the court has passed 12 verdicts against mostly senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which had openly campaigned against independence but denied committing atrocities.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has called the trials a long-overdue effort to obtain justice for war crimes, four decades after Bangladesh split from Pakistan.
But critics say she is using the tribunals to weaken the country’s opposition parties.