A special tribunal dealing with war crimes during Bangladesh’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971 sentenced two men to death on Tuesday for their involvement in genocide and other serious crimes.
Justice M Anwarul Haque, the head judge of a three-member panel of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), announced the verdicts for Obaidul Haque Taher and Ataur Rahman Noni, both residents of the northern Netrokona district.
Both men were in the packed courtroom set up within the Supreme Court in Dhaka when the verdict was announced.
The death sentence has to be executed either “by hanging or by shooting in a firing squad”, prosecutor Mokhlesur Rahman Badal told reporters after the verdict.
Both men will be allowed to appeal in the high court. If the court upholds the verdict, they will have a chance to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court’s appellate division.
Prosecutor Ziad-al-Malum told reporters he was happy with the verdict while defence lawyer Gazi AH Tamim said his clients would appeal.
The defendants faced six charges, including mass killing, abductions, attacks on Hindus, looting of shops and homes, and arson attacks during the nine-month bloody war. Four charges were proved beyond reasonable doubt, the judge said.
Both of them had earlier pleaded not guilty to all the charges and demanded acquittal.
But the prosecution argued they led militia groups and helped Pakistani soldiers to execute Hindus and people who fought for independence in Netrokona.
The 66-year-old Taher and the 62-year-old Noni are not prominent figures in independent Bangladesh. Both of them were businessmen and Taher had joined the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women, while about 10 million were forced to leave the country to take shelter in India during the war.
Some 25 people have been convicted since 2010, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal to try war crimes suspects. Four opposition leaders, including three from the Jamaat-e-Islami party, have been hanged for war crimes.
A total of 21 people have so far been given the death sentence for such crimes.