Islamist leader asks Bangladesh court to commute death sentence

  • World
  • Wednesday, 02 Dec 2015

DHAKA (Reuters) - The lawyer representing the head of Bangladesh's Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party appealed on Wednesday to the Supreme Court to commute his death penalty for war crimes to life in prison.

The country's war crimes tribunal, set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the independence war in 1971, handed down the sentence in October last year.

"Considering his age and physical condition, we appealed to reduce the gravity of the punishment," Motiur Rahman Nizami's defence lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told Reuters.

"According to official documents he is 73 years old, but his real age is more than that and he has been suffering for four months from different (health) complications, because of which the trial has been suspended for that period," he said.

The prosecution will resume arguments in the case on Dec. 7.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told a news briefing that, for the first time, a Jamaat member had confessed to committing war crimes during the 1971 conflict, but Hossain denied Nizami had made any such admission.

Bangladesh executed two opposition leaders last month for war crimes.

Islamist leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), were hanged shortly after President Abdul Hamid rejected their appeals for clemency.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh, until 1971 East Pakistan, has seen a rise in Islamist militant violence in recent months, with two foreigners and four secular writers and a publisher killed this year.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the war five years ago, paving the way for prosecutions by a tribunal that Islamists have denounced as part of a political campaign to weaken Jamaat-e-Islami's leadership.

The government denies accusations of interference in the judiciary.

East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan. About three million people were killed, according to official accounts, but an independent body said the figure may be considerably lower.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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