Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence handed down to a fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart for committing mass murder and crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.
The four-member appellate division of the supreme court headed by Justice S K Sinha pronounced the verdict on the appeal filed by 62-year-old Muhammad Quamaruzzaman against the death penalty handed down to him in May last year by a special tribunal.
The decision comes after within a week Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and top leader of the party Mir Quasem Ali were both sentenced to death for atrocities committed during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
The special Bangladeshi tribunal handed down death penalty to Quamaruzzaman for collaborating in the mass murder of 164 unarmed civilians in Sohagpur village on July 25, 1971.
Quamruzzaman, an assistant secretary general of Jamaat, is the third war crimes convict whose appeal was disposed off in the Supreme Court. The supreme court earlier reduced the capital punishment handed down by the tribunal to life imprisonment in one of the cases and in another case the apex court upheld the death penalty of another convict.
Prosecution lawyers, immediately after the verdict, said Quamaruzzaman could now only seek presidential clemency to overturn the verdict as under the law he has no other legal option to get the judgment reviewed.
But defence lawyers said their client had rights to get the verdict reviewed by the apex court itself as it was his constitutional right. Quamruzzaman was the leader of now defunct Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student front of Jamaat, which was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan.
Since Bangladesh launched the war crimes trial, the two special tribunals, set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's secular government in 2010, have handed down death penalties to nine people and sentenced two others to life imprisonment until their death.
Only one of them, Jamaat's joint secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah so far was executed while two of the convicts were now living in the US and Britain and some cases were pending before the Supreme Court for review.
About three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the liberation war when Jamaat was opposed to Bangladesh's independence siding with the Pakistani junta.