DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence given to a senior Islamist leader convicted by a special tribunal last year for his role in mass killings and other atrocities during the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
The decision means 62-year-old Mohammad Qamaruzzaman, an assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamist political party, will be hanged within months. He would be just the second person put to death since the tribunals were set up more than four years ago to try suspected war criminals.
Justice S.K. Sinha led a four-member Supreme Court panel in announcing that the tribunal's death sentence would stand. Qamaruzzaman's lawyer, Tajul Islam, called the ruling "extremely disappointing" and said he would attempt to file a petition against it, but Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters the decision was final.
"It's now up to authorities to decide when he will be executed," Alam said.
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.
Since 2010, the special tribunals have convicted 12 people, mostly senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, which had openly campaigned against independence but denied committing atrocities. Eight of those convicted were given the death penalty.
Two other senior Jamaat-e-Islami leaders were sentenced to death in the past week for war crimes. Another, Abdul Quader Mollah, was hanged last December, the only one among those convicted to be put to death so far.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunals in 2010, reviving a stalled process and making good on a pledge she made before 2008 elections.
There was a process of trying suspected war criminals after Bangladesh gained independence, but it was halted following the assassination of then-President and independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — Hasina's father — and most of his family members in a military coup in 1975.