Published On: Wed, Oct 29th, 2014

Bangladesh: Islamist party leader gets death sentence for war crimes | World news |

Bangladesh: Islamist party leader gets death sentence for war crimes | World news |
Motiur Rahman Nizami has been sentenced to death for orchestrating the killings of professors, writers and doctors in 1971. Photograph: Abir Abdullah/EPA

The leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party has been sentenced to death for war crimes, in a long-awaited verdict that has triggered fears of fresh violence.

Bangladesh’s war crimes court found Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, guilty of murder, rape and looting during the country’s war of independence against Pakistan in 1971 when he was head of a ruthless militia.

The court sentenced Nizami, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, to hang by the neck until his death for orchestrating the killing of top professors, writers and doctors during the conflict.

“It’s a historic verdict,” prosecutor Haider Ali said outside the packed court in Dhaka.

The court ruled that Nizami was head of the Al-Badr militia, “which took part in many heinous crimes,” Ali said.

“The court observed that he is an Islamic scholar but he misinterpreted the Qur’an.”

Security was tightened across Bangladesh before the verdict after similar judgments against several of Nizami’s senior lieutenants had plunged the country into one of its worst crises last year.

Extra police and border guards have been deployed in the capital and in other major cities, security officials said.

Tens of thousands of Islamists fought with police and more than 500 people died in the unrest and subsequent political violence ahead of disputed polls in January.

While it was effectively banned from taking part in this year’s legislative elections, Jamaat has millions of activists who have staged shows of strength on the streets of Dhaka and other cities in the aftermath of the previous verdicts.

Wednesday’s ruling, originally scheduled for June, was postponed at the 11th hour because Nizami was suffering from high blood pressure.