A top leader of Bangladesh's fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party was on Thursday sentenced to death for "crimes against humanity", including genocide and religious persecution, during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
A special Bangladeshi tribunal handed down death penalty to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the party, amid a nationwide shutdown called by Jammat.
"He (Delwar Hossain Sayedee) will be hanged by neck till he is dead," pronounced chairman of the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal Justice ATM Fazle Kabir.
He is the third JI politician to be convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal since the trial of war crimes suspects, mostly belonging to the Islamist group, began three years ago.
The 120-page verdict said the tribunal found valid eight of the 20 charges against the Islamist leader which included mass killing, arson, lootings and forcefully converting non-Muslims to Islam of which two of the charges earned him the highest death sentence.
The verdict came as a security blanket covered the capital Dhaka and other major cities after JI called a nationwide shutdown coinciding with the date of the judgement while thousands of youngsters enforced a street vigil demanding the capital punishment for the war criminals.
Sayedee, the Nayeb-e-Amir of JI, was arrested on June 29, 2010 and was indicted on October 3, for 20 charges of crimes against humanity including looting, killing, arson, rape and forcefully converting non-Muslims to Islam.
A total of 27 witnesses testified against him during the trial while Sayeedi's counsels brought 17 people to speak to defend their client.
The authorities earlier called out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh in aide of police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion to enforce a stringent security vigil.
Offices and businesses were open defying the stoppage call while transport owners association earlier said they would operate the public transports despite the hartal call.
Witnesses said JI activists tried to make their presence on the street, exploding homemade bombs and staging street marches at different parts of the capital. Police chased them with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters and detained several of them from the spots.
"Police arrested 10 troublemakers from the spot after chasing them," a police official told PTI.
The suspected JI activists damaged nine vehicles and torched another one in pre-strike violence last night apparently to frighten people to enforce their stoppage.