Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a trial court’s verdict sentencing a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami to death for his atrocities during the country’s liberation war with Pakistan in 1971.
Chief Justice SK Sinha made the ruling in the case of Mir Quasem Ali, a strong man of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the port city of Chittagong, as he led a five-judge bench of the appellate division.
Security was tight outside the Supreme Court as dozens of people who fought in 1971 shouted slogans and demanded justice on the streets on Tuesday morning.
In the earlier verdict, Ali was found guilty on eight charges, two of which carried a death sentence, including the kidnapping and murder of a young man in a torture cell.
Ali is known as an influential leader and one of the party’s top financiers as he has interests in businesses ranging from shipping to construction.
In 1971, Ali was chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha, now renamed as Islami Chhatra Shibir, in Chittagong district. He was also known to be a top organiser of the al-Badr militia that helped Pakistani troops kidnap and kill many in the region.
After the verdict in November 2014 by a special tribunal, Ali appealed in the Supreme Court.
Prosecutor Tureen Afroze said she was happy with the Supreme Court’s verdict.
There was confusion on whether the top court would uphold the death sentence since a recent comment by the chief justice had raised concern about the prosecution’s effort to prove the case against Ali.
Ali will now be able to appeal again to seek a review of the Supreme Court’s ruling but it is unlikely that Tuesday’s verdict will be changed. As a last effort, he can seek clemency from President Abdul Hamid, but there has been no instance of a convict being granted clemency in similar cases in the past.
Defence lawyers said that they would talk to Ali and his family to decide the next course of action.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators killed some 3 million people in 1971 while about 10 million took shelter across the border in India, which helped Bangladesh gain independence under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.