DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A special tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced to death a senior leader of the country's largest Islamist party on Sunday, the second death sentence in a week for mass killings during the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
After the judge in the packed Dhaka courtroom read the sentence, Mir Quashem Ali protested, calling the witnesses who testified against him "fake." The 62-year-old is a member of Jamaat-e-Islami's highest policymaking body, and is considered one of the party's top financiers.
Last week, the court sentenced to death the party's leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, for war crimes. Another senior leader has already been hanged.
In protest, Jamaat-e-Islami enforced a nationwide general strike Sunday, though no violence was reported. The court's previous verdicts have triggered street violence.
Bangladesh blames Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of 3 million people during the nine-month 1971 war. An estimated 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India.
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 special tribunal has convicted 12 people, mostly senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, 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.