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Awami League’s former official to be hanged for war crimes in Bangladesh

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s war crimes court Monday sentenced a former ruling party official to hang for mass murder, the 14th person convicted of atrocities during the 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan, a prosecutor said.

Mobarak Hossain, who was expelled from the Awami League after he was charged with war crimes in 2012, was found guilty of heading a militia that rounded up and killed scores during the nine-month conflict.

“He was sentenced to death for the murder of 33 people and given (a) life term for the abduction and murder of another person,” prosecutor Shahidur Rahman told AFP.

The 64-year-old Hossain is the first person connected with the ruling party to be given the death penalty by the controversial tribunal, which has mostly focused on trials of officials of the country’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Hossain, who was in court to hear the verdict, had previously been an official of Jamaat-e-Islami which opposed independence from Pakistan.

During the war he was a local commander of a notorious pro-Pakistani militia in the eastern border town of Akhaura which carried out murders, abductions and torture, Rahman said.

In one of the worst episodes of the war, “Hossain and his associates abducted 132 people and then murdered 33 of them on the bank of a pond”, he said.

After Bangladesh gained independence, Jamaat was banned for some years. Hossain eventually switched to the Awami League, serving as a low-level official for 16 years until he was charged.

Jamaat’s leader and its top lieutenants were sentenced to death last year for their roles in the war, triggering the country’s deadliest political violence.

Thousands of Islamist activists clashed with police in various protests that left some 500 people dead.

An ex-minister of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has also been sentenced to hang.

The BNP and Jamaat have called the court’s trials politically motivated and aimed at eliminating opposition leaders rather than rendering justice.

Rights groups have said the trials fall short of international standards and lack any foreign oversight.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina maintains the hearings are needed to heal the wounds of the conflict, which it says left three million people dead.

Independent researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people died in the 1971 war. – AFP

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