A Bangladesh special court yesterday sentenced an elderly former minister to life in prison for genocide during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War against Pakistan.
Abdul Alim, 83, who was a minister when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party — the current main opposition party — was in power, was found guilty of nine charges, including genocide, murder and persecution of the country’s minority Hindus during the war, a senior official said.
The country’s International Crimes Tribunal spared the wheelchair-bound Alim the death penalty, despite the gravity of the crimes, because of his poor health and age, Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters.
“He will remain in the prison until his death,” Alam said, adding that Alim was convicted of involvement in the killing of 372 Hindus in one of the worst single acts of murder during the war.
Prosecutors said Alim killed about 600 people in total, mostly Hindus, in the northwestern district of Joypurhat, where he was a local head of a pro-Pakistani militia called Razakar Bahini.
“He took the Pakistani soldiers to the Koroi Kadipur Village during the war and then ordered 372 Hindus to stand in two lines,” prosecutor Rana Das Gupta told reporters before the verdict. “One of their elders was first slaughtered and others were then shot to death.”
Alim was the eighth person to be convicted and sentenced by the much-criticized tribunal since January. Previous verdicts against top Islamists and opposition leaders have triggered widespread violence and nationwide strikes, leaving at least 100 people dead.
Dhaka set up the tribunal in 2010, saying trials were needed to heal the wounds of the war, during which it says 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped. Independent estimates put the death toll at between 300,000 and 500,000.
Unlike other war crime courts, the Bangladesh tribunal is not endorsed by the UN and New York-based Human Rights Watch group has said its procedures fall short of international standards.