DHAKA • Bangladesh's Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence of top Islamist party leader Motiur Rahman Nizami for war crimes, paving the way for his execution within days.
Nizami, the head of Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, was convicted of murder, rape and orchestrating the killing of intellectuals during the country's 1971 independence struggle.
A defence lawyer for the 73-year-old said he would not seek clemency and Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said jail authorities would begin preparing for the execution once they have received a copy of the verdict.
Clemency has never been granted to a convicted war criminal in Bangladesh, and the party leader is likely to be hanged within days.
Hundreds of people who had campaigned for Islamist leaders to be tried for their roles in the 1971 war burst into impromptu celebrations at a square in central Dhaka and in the port city of Chittagong.
Security has been stepped up in Dhaka, already tense after a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants.
Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of Bangladesh's biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, was convicted of murder, rape and orchestrating the killing of intellectuals during the country's 1971 independence struggle.
In 2013, the convictions of Jamaat officials triggered the country's deadliest violence in decades, with around 500 people killed, mainly in clashes between Islamists and police.
Jamaat has called a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the Supreme Court's decision.
Nizami took over as leader of Jamaat in 2000 and was a minister in the Islamist-allied government of 2001-2006.
Prosecutors said he was responsible for setting up the Al-Badr pro-Pakistani militia, which killed top writers, doctors and journalists in the most gruesome chapter of the 1971 conflict.
They were blindfolded, their hands were tied and their bodies were dumped in a marsh on the outskirts of the capital.
Prosecutors said Nizami ordered the killings, designed to "intellectually cripple" the fledgling nation.
He was convicted in October 2014 by the International Crimes Tribunal, which was established in 2010 by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government and has sentenced more than a dozen opposition leaders for war crimes.
Rights groups say the trials fall short of global standards and lack international oversight.