A top leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was on Tuesday sentenced to life by a special Bangladeshi tribunal on charges of committing "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
"He (Abdul Kader Mollah) will serve the life term," said chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal Justice Obaidul Hassan.
The judgment said five of the six charges brought against the 65-year-old incumbent assistant secretary general of the rightwing party were proved during the trial.
Earlier, Mollah was brought before the court under a heavy security vigil. Soon after the verdict, Jamaat supporters clashed with the police in parts of the capital, leaving several people injured.
This was the second such judgment by the tribunal in less than three weeks. It had earlier awarded the death penalty to fugitive Abul Kalam Azad on January 17.
Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, along with fellow party leader Muhammad Qamaruzzaman, in front of the Supreme Court premises on charges of crimes against humanity in 1971.
The tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012 on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attack directed upon the unarmed civilians and "causing commission of the horrific" genocide, murders and rapes.
Attorney General Mahbube Alam said the verdict "upset us as we expected the capital punishment for the crimes he committed". Defence counsels were not available for comments.
Alam said the prosecution would decide later about an appeal against the judgment after a detailed review.
The ruling came after the JI enforced a nationwide general strike, demanding that the trial of their top leaders for 1971 war crimes should be halted.
Commenting on the verdict, the prosecution and 1971 veterans said it was disappointing since there were specific charges of murders against Mollah.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said prosecutors will decide if the verdict would be challenged in the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
"I can't tell you anything more about the judgment at this moment," he told reporters.
State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, however, said the verdict "upset the nation and it was not the judgment which the nation expected".
Meanwhile, authorities ordered a nationwide security alert as JI activists torched several vehicles and attacked buses in capital Dhaka and several other major cities.
"The police are not an enemy of any political party. They (JI) can hold peaceful rallies," Dhaka's police commissioner Benzir Ahmed earlier told newsmen.
JI, a crucial ally of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, threatened that the general strike will continue for an indefinite period.
JI was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan and the party had sided with Pakistani troops during the Liberation War. The fundamentalist party is accused of masterminding killings of the country's leading intelligentsia including professors, doctors and journalists.