Bangladesh top Islamist gets 90-year jail for war crimes

Bangladesh top Islamist gets 90-year jail for war crimes

A 91-year-old top leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was today sentenced to 90 years in jail by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for masterminding atrocities during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

Ghulam Azam, the Jamaat-e-Islami supremo who has left deep emotional scars in the collective national psyche by engineering war-time atrocities in 1971, was found guilty by the International Crimes Tribunal on five charges including murder and torture.

He had been charged with 61 counts of crimes in those five categories. This was the fifth and possibly the most-awaited verdict on the war crimes cases.

"Ghulam Azam's case is a unique one. Ghulam Azam was not physically present during these crimes but he has been accused of being the main man and the overseer of the war crimes during 1971," Justice A T M Fazle Kabir, chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal-1, said.

"He will serve 90 years in jail,"  Kabir said, as the panel pronounced the operative part of an abridged 75-page judgement in the crowded courtroom.

The judgement, however, said Azam deserved the death penalty for the crimes he had committed siding with the Pakistani junta but his old age and physical condition forced the panel to deliver the 90-year jail term.

Azam, the then chief of the East Pakistan wing of Jamaat-e-Islami party was present as the tribunal delivered the crucial verdict.

He was "found guilty of all the charges" in course of the trial during the past one year.

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