Bangladesh war crimes panel hands down death sentence in absentia

Bangladesh war crimes panel hands down death sentence in absentia
Bangladeshi police stand guard at the war crimes court.

DHAKA - A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal convicted a opposition leader in absentia on Thursday in connection with atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan and sentenced him to death.

Zahid Hossain, 70, a former leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was found guilty of charges including mass killing, rape, forcible religious conversion, arson and torture, prosecutors said.

Hossain is believed to be living in Sweden which does not have an extradition treaty with Bangladesh. "We will try our best to bring him back as per our procedure," national police chief Hassan Mahmood Khandker told Reuters, without elaborating.

Last November, two Islamist leaders, one an American citizen and one a British citizen, were sentenced to death for war crimes in absentia. Neither has yet been brought back to Bangladesh.

Violent protests over a series of war crimes trials are one of the main challenges facing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened the inquiry in 2010.

Hasina's opponents say she is using the tribunals against the two biggest opposition parties, arch rival Begum Khaleda Zia's BNP and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami.

International human rights groups say the tribunal falls short of international standards. The government denies the charge.

An Islamist politician was hanged in December, the first war crimes execution in Bangladesh, after the Supreme Court overturned a life sentence imposed by the tribunal.

This month, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a top Jamaat leader over atrocities committed during the war.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but it broke away in 1971 after a nine-month war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Some factions in Bangladesh, including the Jamaat, opposed the break with Pakistan, but the party denies accusations that its leaders committed atrocities.

About three million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women were raped.

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.