91-year-old Bangla leader gets 90-yr jail for war crimes

91 year jail

Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami's 91-year-old supremo Ghulam Azam was Monday sentenced to 90-year in jail by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for masterminding atrocities during the country's 1971 war of independence, the fifth and the most-awaited verdict on the war crimes cases.

"He (Azam) will serve 90 years in jail," chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal-1 A T M Fazle Kabir announced at the crowded courtroom here, amid tight security as Jamaat-e-Islami enforced a violent nationwide general strike Monday called another general strike Tuesday against the "politically motivated" sentencing.

He will serve the sentence "consecutively or till his death", Justice Kabir said as the wheeled-bound Azam remained stone-faced.

Before the judgment was announced, police fired rubber bullets to disperse Azam's supporters protesting in Dhaka and other cities.

The judgment, however, said Azam deserved the death penalty for the crimes he had committed in 1971 for siding with the Pakistani junta but his old age and physical condition forced the panel to deliver the 90 years of jail term.

Azam, who has left deep emotional scars in the collective national psyche by engineering war-time atrocities in 1971, was found guilty of all five categories of crime - conspiracy, planning, incitement, complicity and murder. He had been charged with 61 counts of crimes in all five categories.

Prosecution lawyers, during the trial earlier compared him with German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as his party cadres used to operate as Gestapo forces in killing the leading intelligentsia particularly just ahead of the final victory.

Under the verdict, Azam was handed down 10 years jail term for conspiracy in committing crimes against humanity, 10 years for planning, 20 years for incitement and 20 years for complicity. He was sentenced to jail for another 30 years for the murder of police officer Siru Miah and his son Anwar Kamal and 36 others as they had sided with pro-independence forces.

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