Dhaka: A former Bangladeshi minister, who was sentenced for life in prison for war crimes committed during the 1971 independence struggle, died here today after a prolonged struggle with cancer.
Abdul Alim, 83, died this afternoon after a long struggle with lung cancer, a spokesman of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital told reporters.
Jail officials said Alim's cancer was detected six months ago and he was kept on life support for the past three days.
Alim, a former minister in the cabinet of president Zia-ur-Rahman, was convicted and sentenced by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal last October on nine charges including genocide, murder and the persecution of the minority Hindus during the war against Pakistan.
While announcing the verdict, the tribunal said Alim deserved death for the war crimes but handed down the life sentence considering his age and disability.
He had appealed to the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the tribunal's verdict.
Alim was convicted of involvement in the killing of some 600 people, including the one in which 372 Hindus were dragged out of their homes and fatally shot in the northwestern Joypurhata district, his hometown where he was a local leader of the pro-Pakistani militia Razakar Bahini in the district.
He later joined the Bangladesh Nationalist Patry (BNP) and was elected to the parliament thrice, and a cabinet minister in the 1970s.
Alim was one of a many opposition leaders including top Islamists to have been convicted and sentenced by the tribunal since January last year for war crimes.
The BNP has said the trials are politically motivated and aimed at targeting key opposition figures rather than meting out justice.
Bangladesh set up the tribunal in 2010 to try those accused of committing war crime during the Liberation war. It says three million people were killed and 200,000 women raped, but independent estimates put the toll at between 300,000 and 500,000.