Bangladesh Islamist leader ordered hanged for war crimes

Activists of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami throw brick pieces during a clash with police in Rajshahi.

DHAKA - A Bangladesh court Wednesday sentenced a senior leader of the country's largest Islamic party to death for crimes committed during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, 65, was found guilty of five charges, including abduction and murder, and was sentenced to death by the much-criticised International Crimes Tribunal.

"In three out of five charges he was given the death sentence," the country's junior attorney general and prosecutor M.K. Rahman said.

Justice Obaidul Hassan ordered Mujahid be "hanged by the neck" after the panel of three judges read out the verdict to the packed courtroom in the capital Dhaka, amid tight security.

Mujahid is currently the second highest-ranked member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and also an influential leader in the 18-party opposition alliance.

The verdict is the second this week by the tribunal after Jamaat's 90-year-old spiritual leader Ghulam Azam was convicted on Monday and sentenced to 90 years in prison for masterminding atrocities during the war.

That verdict prompted a nationwide strike by Jamaat supporters who took to the streets, sparking violent clashes with police that killed five people.

The trials have divided the country, with secularists demanding the execution of all the accused and Islamists branding the trials a sham, aimed at eliminating their leaders.