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Bangladesh sentences 6 to death for crimes during independence war of 1971

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Bangladesh's war crimes tribunal sentenced six people to death on Thursday for crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The three-judge bench of the International Crimes Tribunal, led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam, handed down the verdict against the convicts for the killing of unarmed freedom fighters and members belonging to the minority Hindu community in southwestern Khulna district, Prosecutor Mokhlesur Rahman Badal told La Prensa Latina (EFE).

Badal said they were found guilty on all four charges brought against them for aiding, abetting, facilitating, and participating in crimes against humanity and genocide.

"They killed many people and set fire to many houses belonging to Hindus. The tribunal found all six accused guilty of the four charges brought against them and handed them death sentences for each charge," Badal said.

Five of the six accused in the case were arrested in 2017 and were present at the court when the verdict was announced, while one has been absconding and was tried in absentia, according to the prosecutor.

This is the 48th verdict in a war crime case since the tribunal was set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 as part of her electoral promise.

The tribunal, set up in 2009, has been criticized by international rights groups for not following fair trial standards. Abdus Sattar Palwan, the convicts' lawyer, was quoted by Anadolu Agency as saying that his clients "did not get justice" and will challenge the verdict in a higher court.

Since the first ruling was announced in 2013, a total of 119 out of 135 accused have been sentenced for war crimes in Bangladesh, according to the office of the prosecutor.

Of those convicted, 84 were sentenced to death, four were handed life-terms, 25 were sentenced to be imprisoned until death, and six others got shorter jail sentences.

Six of those sentenced to death have been executed so far, and five of them were members of the country's largest Islamist Party, the Jamaat-e Islami, and one belonged to the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

There are currently another 37 such cases pending before the court, according to the public prosecutor's office.

In May 2016, Bangladesh executed the leader of Jamaat-e Islami for alleged war crimes.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was hanged at a prison in the capital, Dhaka, just days after the nation's highest court dismissed his final appeal to overturn the death sentence for atrocities committed during the country's 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

The law and justice minister, Anisul Huq, said the 73-year-old leader was hanged after he refused to seek mercy from the country's president.

Nizami was the fifth, and highest-ranked, opposition leader to have been executed since December 2013 for war crimes despite global criticism of their trials. He is the fourth from Jamaat.

Nizami took over as party leader in 2000 and played a key role in the victory of an Islamist-allied government in the 2001 general election. He served as a key minister in the Islamist-allied cabinet between 2001 and 2006.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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