DHAKA: A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Sunday 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 war against Pakistan in 1971. Mir Quashem Ali sat calmly in the dock as Judge Obaidul Hasan read the verdict in the packed courtroom in Dhaka, the Bangladesh’s capital city. The 62-year-old Ali is a member of Jamaat-i-Islami party’s highest policy making body and he is considered to be one of top financiers of the party. 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-i-Islami party enforced a nationwide general strike Sunday, 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 3 million people during the nine-month 1971 war.
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-i-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.