Bangladeshi Islamist leader faces death sentence for war crimes

Bangladesh’s war crimes court is set to deliver a verdict against the leader of the country’s largest Islamist party, who could face the death penalty for his alleged crimes during the 1971 independence struggle. Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, faces 16 charges ranging from mass killing to rape, arson and genocide, relating to violence committed by one of the most notorious militias during the war. A death sentence could trigger violent protests in the country as Nizami’s Jamaat-e-Islami party has a strong grassroots base with hundreds of thousands of activists and supporters.

[Nizami] was involved in committing crimes against humanity such as genocide, murder, rape and arson as well as the murder of the country’s top intellectuals.

Mohammad Ali, prosecutor

Similar verdicts, including the execution of a senior Jamaat leader last year, saw massive unrest nationwide as Islamists fought with security forces in towns and cities, leaving around 200 people dead. Nizami pleaded not guilty and accuses the country’s secular government of using the special war crimes court to target opposition leaders. Prosecutors say Nizami was one of the chief architects of the mass killings of Bengalis in the 1971 independence war that saw Bangladesh emerge from what was then called East Pakistan.

He established the Al-Badr forces during the war to support the Pakistani army.

Mohammad Ali