[JURIST] A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Wednesday sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website; Global Security backgrounder] leader Motiur Rahman Nizami to death for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder] with Pakistan. The former Cabinet minister was tried on charges [AP report] that included genocide, rape, murder and torture, and was accused of personally carrying out or ordering the deaths of nearly 600 Bangladeshis while serving as supreme commander of the Al-Badr militia. The JI party has released a statement denouncing the verdict, and the defense has announced its plan to appeal BBC report], contending that the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that the tribunal went beyond its jurisdiction.
Activists have long called for the banning of the country’s largest Islamist party. In March Bangladeshi investigators moved the government [JURIST report] to ban Islamist party after evidence emerged indicating that JI formed armed groups to assist Pakistani forces in the commission of atrocities. In September the Supreme Court of Bangladesh commuted the death sentence of top JI Vice President Delwar Hossain Sayedee, sentencing him to life behind bars for crimes committed during the 1971 independence war. On February 10 prominent leader AKM Yusuf, died [JURIST report] of cardiac arrest while in prison awaiting trial for his role in the 1971 conflict. He was accused of helping to train leaders of the pro-Pakistan paramilitary group called the “Razakars.” Another party leader, Abdus Subhan, was arrested in September and charged [JURIST report] by the tribunal in January for his alleged role. In December the Bangladeshi government executed [JURIST report] Abdul Quader Mullah after conviction for war crimes. Though originally sentenced to life in prison by the tribunal, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced him to death with no opportunity to appeal. The execution sparked widespread protests.