Bangladesh Upholds Death Penalty for Jamaat Leader for 1971 War Crimes

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Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the 1971 war in which East Pakistan separated to become Bangladesh. paving the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

HAKA, March 8 (Reuters) – Bangladesh Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death penalty for one of the top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Mir Quasem Ali, for war crimes during the 1971 independence war with Pakistan, which included killing and torturing freedom fighters.

A war crimes tribunal set up in 2010 has sparked violence and drawn criticism from opposition politicians, including leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, that it is victimising Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political opponents.

Four opposition politicians, including three leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, have been convicted by the tribunal and executed since late 2013.

Mir Quasem, 63, is a member of central executive committee of the Jamaat, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, and is one of its most powerful leaders as he is believed to be the chief financier of the party.

He is also a leading businessman in Bangladesh, running firms ranging from print and electronic media to hospitals.

About 3 million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women raped, during the independence war in which some factions, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, opposed the breakaway from what was then called West Pakistan.

The party denies that its leaders committed any atrocities.

Mir Quasem went into hiding after Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators surrendered on December 16, 1971, and re-appeared years later as a Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

He was arrested on June 17, 2012 and convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death on November 2, 2014. His appeal against the death sentence was rejected on Tuesday, chief state lawyer Mahbubey Alam told reporters, immediately after the verdict.

Khandker Mahbub Hossain, the principal lawyer of the defendant, told reporters that after receiving a copy of the full verdict he will consult Quasem and his family. (Reporting By Serajul Quadir; Editing by Michael Perry)

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