Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami chief given death sentence

Bangladesh's main Islamist party has called for a three-day nationwide strike against the death sentence awarded to its chief for war crimes Wednesday.

The International Crimes Tribunal -- which is a domestic court -- handed the death sentence early morning to Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami on eight of the 16 charges he faced.

Nizami was accused of murder, rape, looting and collaboration with the Pakistani army during the war that led to Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Defense lawyer Tajul Islam told reporters there were “weaknesses” in the verdict and they would appeal the decision.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has called for nationwide strike on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

In a statement issued on the party’s official website, acting chief Maqbul Ahmad and acting Secretary-General Dr. Shafiqur Rahman have said “the government had filed false and baseless cases of crimes against humanity against Ameer Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami and other senior leaders in order to destroy the top leadership of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. The government brought some false, baseless and concocted charges against Maulana Nizami."

“We truly believe that he will certainly be acquitted if the appellate division ensures justice to him,” the statement added.

Shahriar Kabir, an activist who supported the trial, said "this is a long expected verdict. But the point which concerns us is the execution of the verdict. If he appeals in the higher court and court reduces his punishment as before, it would be bad luck for us and all war martyrs as well."

Other figures found guilty by the tribunal include Abdul Quader Mollah, who was executed in December 2013, and former leader Ghulam Azam, who died while serving a 90-year prison sentence last Thursday.

The war crimes tribunals were established in 2009 by the ruling Awami League party to investigate alleged crimes committed during the 1971 war.

Opposition parties and international organizations have criticized the process, with Human Rights Watch expressing concerns over whether the accused received fair trials.

By Mainul Islam Khan AA