Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a top Islamist leader Mir Quasem Ali for war crimes during the country’s independence struggle against Pakistan in 1971, which included killing and torturing freedom fighters paving the way for his execution.
Chief Justice SK Sinha made the ruling in the case of Mir Quasem Ali, a strong man of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the port city of Chittagong, as he led a five-judge bench of the appellate division.
Three senior Jamaat officials and a leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have been executed since December 2013 for war crimes, despite global criticism of their trials by a controversial war crimes tribunal.
The trials have divided the country and sparked deadly protests, with supporters of Jamaat and the BNP branding them a sham aimed at eliminating their leaders.
In the earlier verdict, Ali was found guilty on eight charges, two of which carried a death sentence, including the kidnapping and murder of a young man in a torture cell.
Ali is known as an influential leader and one of the party’s top financiers as he has interests in businesses ranging from shipping to construction.
He is also a leading businessman in Bangladesh, running firms ranging from print and electronic media to hospitals. About three million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women raped, during the independence war in which some factions, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, opposed the breakaway from what was then called West Pakistan. The party denies that its leaders committed any atrocities.
The decision of the five-member bench of the top court came 16 months after the country’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced 63-year-old Ali to death for atrocities committed during the liberation war in 1971. He had challenged the verdict.
He was convicted of running a militia torture cell, Al Badr, that carried out killings of several people.
The court found as valid most of the charges against him, including carrying out murders and tortures siding with the Pakistani troops in line with the policy of Jamaat, which was opposed to Bangladesh’s 1971 independence.