A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Wednesday sentenced a former lawmaker to death and seven others to life in prison for their crimes committed during the country’s War of Independence in 1971.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 found the eight persons guilty of committing rape, murder, confinement and torture of unarmed civilians, Xinhua news agency reported.
Sakhawat Hossain, now a presidium member of the Jatiya Party of former military strongman H.M. Ershad, who ruled Bangladesh for nearly nine years from 1982 to 1990, and Billal Hossain Biswas were in the dock when the court ruling came.
Ibrahim Hossain, Sheikh Mojibur Rahman, M.A. Aziz Sardar, Abdul Aziz Sardar, Kazi Ohidul Islam and Abdul Khalek are fleeing from justice and were sentenced in absentia.
Shakhawat was a central committee member of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, which opposed the independence of Bangladesh and break-up of Pakistan, and a commander of Razakar, an auxiliary group of then Pakistan Army in what then was Eastern Pakistan.
Shakhawat was elected to parliament on Jamaat ticket in 1991 and on the ticket of Bangladeshi Nationalist Party of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in the February 15 election in 1996.
Defence counsel Abdus Satter expressed discontent with the verdict, saying his clients will file appeal with the Supreme Court.
After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s independence hero and founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010, almost 40 years after the 1971 War of Liberation.
Four Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party leaders — Motiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Molla, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid — have already been executed for the 1971 war crimes.
Besides them, opposition BNP leader Salaudin Quader Chowdhury was executed on November 22 last year.
Both the BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government "show trial", saying it is a domestic set-up without the oversight or involvement of the United Nations.
The government of Sheikh Hasina said about three million people were killed in the nine-month war.