BANGLADESH - An influential Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lawmaker was today sentenced to death by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for committing "crimes against humanity" in collusion with Pakistani troops during the 1971 liberation war.
"He (Salauddin Quader Chowdhury) will be hanged by neck till he is dead," the chairman of a three-member International Crimes Tribunal announced in a crowded courtroom.
Chowdhury (65) was found guilty of rape, torture, murder and genocide during the war for independence from Pakistan. The tribunal said nine of 23 charges against Chowdhury, who was present in the courtroom, were "proved beyond reasonable doubt" and he was awarded capital punishment for four of the charges. Witnesses said Chowdhury called the verdict "a pre-determined judgment" and his relatives joined him in making ridiculing comments as the judges were delivering the verdict.
The government had yesterday stepped up security across the country in anticipation of violent protests by opposition parties.
Paramilitary Border Guards were deployed in Chittagong, Chowdury's hometown, while police in riot gear were put on alert to face any law and order situation in the capital and other cities.
Chowdhury is one of two BNP leaders to be tried for 1971 war crimes, but the main Opposition party was yet to react to the verdict, which came 17 months after the high-powered tribunal indicted him on 23 charges of crimes against humanity. The charges included killing directly around 200 people, collaborating with the Pakistan army to kill and torture unarmed people.