Islamic Leader Gets 90-Year Sentence for War Crimes in Bangladesh

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The 90-year-old head of Bangladesh's largest Islamist party has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for his role in war crimes dating to the country's 1971 war for independence. Ghulam Azam was convicted Monday by the International Crimes Tribunal on multiple counts of murder, torture, and incitement of violence during the decades-old conflict. He was the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party during the war that divided Bangladesh from Pakistan and remains their spiritual leader today.

Sadly, the verdict has led to even more deaths as Jamaat-e-Islami supporters took to the streets in protest. Three people have been killed as they clashed with both police and with opponents of Azam, who believe he should have been given the death penalty. A prosecutor who worked on the case said, "Some kind of justice is done but we are not happy," according to Al Jazeera.

Azam and his Islamist supporters were accused of collaborating with the Pakistani military to massacre intellectuals, artists, doctors, and journalists (mostly Hindus) during the war of independence, when East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan to become Bangladesh. The army was alleged to have killed as many as three million people during that war, mostly civilians, though the actual number is probably much lower. Azam is the fifth person convicted for their role in the crimes, three of whom have been given death sentences. Azam was spared due to his age, but will obviously spend the remainder of his life in jail, pending an appeal.

Supporters say the convictions are politically motivated and based on questionable evidence. Azam spoke out against the independence of East Pakistan at the time, and his speeches from the era were used against him at the trial.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.