DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A special Bangladesh tribunal on Wednesday found a senior member of the opposition guilty of crimes against humanity stemming from the nation's 1971 war of independence and sentenced him to life in prison.
Abdul Alim, 83, of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was found guilty of involvement in the killing of at least 600 people during the war, the prosecution said.
Alim, who arrived at the packed court on a wheelchair, has denied the allegations and his lawyer Tajul Islam said he will appeal the verdict.
It is the eighth verdict delivered by the tribunal since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government ordered it formed in 2010 to prosecute crimes allegedly committed during the nine-month war in which Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan. Historians say some 3 million people were killed and at least 200,000 women were raped.
The tribunal found Alim and his associates guilty of collaborating with Pakistani soldiers in killing civilians, mostly Hindus, who are a minority in largely Muslim Bangladesh. Prosecutors say Alim and his men set fire to Hindu homes and dragged residents outside before killing them, and on other occasions led Pakistani troops on raids to kill civilians.
Quoting the tribunal judges, chief prosecutor Tuhin Afroz said the court thought Alim deserved the death sentence for his crimes, but handed him a lesser penalty considering his old age and illness.
Alim's party did not give any immediate reaction to the verdict, but it has called the trial politically motivated.
Last week the tribunal sentenced another senior party member, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, to death for crimes against humanity.
The verdict came as the opposition party, led by Hasina's main rival Khaleda Zia, is campaigning for her resignation and transfer power to a neutral caretaker administration to make the next general election free and fair. The election is due in January.
Some international rights groups have echoed the opposition's allegation that the trials are flawed and don't meet international standards, which the government denies.