Dhaka: Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death penalty given by a special tribunal to an influential opposition BNP leader and an aide of former prime minister Khaleda Zia for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
"Maintained," Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha said, upholding a 2013 verdict by the International Crimes Tribunal sentencing 66-year-old Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to death.
"The verdict has fulfilled our expectations," said Attorney general Mahbubey Alam.
Defence counsels said they were disappointed with the judgment and added they planned to seek it to be reviewed by the top court itself after the full text of the verdict was released by the Applegate Division of the Supreme Court.
Court officials said the four-member appellate division bench upheld Chowdhury's death penalty on four charges of massacre with one being the gruesome murder of philanthropist Nutan Chandra Singha.
Prosecutors earlier described Chowdhury as a merciless killer who murdered more than 200 Hindus, including Singha, the owner of well-known herbal medicine company dragging him out of his prayer room to be shot by the Pakistani soldiers. He himself confirmed the death by shooting Singha again.
This was the fifth time the Appellate Division delivered a verdict on an appeal against a tribunal's judgement.
Chowdhury is the second former minister to have the death sentence upheld after Jamaat-e-Islami's Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, who is already hanged.
Lawyers said in line with the rules, the apex court would now publish the full verdict and send it to the tribunal, which will then issue the death warrant to be served to the convict, who would then get a chance to file a review petition within subsequent 15 days. The convict will also have the opportunity to seek presidential mercy once the apex court upholds its own decision.
Hundreds of protesters belonging to non-party ganojagoran Mancha and ruling party activists staged "victory processions" as news of the verdict reached the capital's Shahbagh Square where they rallied since dawn.
On November 1, 2013 the special tribunal had sentenced Chowdhury to death.