Court sentences six men to death over 1971 war crimes

A special court in Bangladesh on Wednesday sentenced six men, including a former lawmaker, to death for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

The war crimes tribunal in Dhaka handed down the sentences against Abu-Saleh Aziz, the former member of parliament from the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, and five others for mass killings, arson attacks and looting during the nine-month armed struggle.

Prosecution lawyer, Syedul Sumon, said three counts, including the killing of 13 elected representatives and a minority Hindu man, and the looting of homes in the northern Gaibandha district, were proved beyond doubt against the accused.

The court also asked the authorities to arrest Aziz, who was a local commander of a wartime vigilante group aiding Pakistani forces against unarmed civilians, and four of his associates, who have been on the run since the trial began in June 2016.

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One of the accused was on the dock when a three-member panel of judges pronounced the verdict.

Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, set up the tribunal in 2010 to prosecute those accused of atrocities committed in the 1971 war in which some three million people died and about 200,000 women were raped, according to Bangladesh government estimates.

An earlier initiative to try the accused was called off following the 1975 assassination of Sheikh Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding leader and father of current Prime Minister Hasina.

The defendants allegedly collaborated with the occupying army during the conflict.

Most of those indicted are from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, which opposed independence.

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