Dhaka: A fugitive Islamic cleric linked to the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party was on Monday handed down death penalty by Bangladesh`s war crimes court for atrocities committed by him during the country`s 1971 liberation struggle.
In its maiden verdict, the three-member International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Abul Kalam Azad, an anchor of Islamic programmes at a private TV channel, to death.
"Abul Kalam Azad (alias Bacchu Razakar) will be hanged by neck till his death," the tribunal`s Chairman, Justice Obaidul Hassan, pronounced at a crowed courtroom in downtown Dhaka after the trial in absentia.
63-year-old Azad, a former member of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, fled the country in April last year as he was charged over "crimes against humanity" during the Liberation War for siding with Pakistani troops in 1971.
On November 4 last year, Azad was indicted with eight charges of crimes against humanity, based on eight incidents that left at least 12 unarmed people dead and two women raped in Faridpur during the country`s Liberation War in 1971. He was accused of collaborating with a Pakistani Major.
The tribunal, which decided to hold Azad`s trial in his absence as he failed to appear before it despite publication of newspaper ads asking him to show up, had appointed Supreme Court lawyer Abdus Sukur Khan as the defence lawyer for Azad.
It took only one month to complete recording testimonies of witnesses and arguments of both sides, as there were no defence witnesses in the case.
Twenty-two prosecution witnesses, including some victims and family members of the dead, had testified.
The state-appointed defence counsel failed to produce any witnesses due to non-cooperation of Azad`s family members.