Bangladesh ex-ruling party leader gets death for war crimes

DHAKA (REUTERS) - A former leader of Bangladesh's ruling party was sentenced to death by a war crimes tribunal on Monday in connection with atrocities committed during the country's war of independence from Pakistan.

Mobarak Hossain, 64, a local leader expelled from the ruling Awami League party in 2011, was found guilty of charges including mass killing, abduction and torture, prosecutors said.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 opened an inquiry into war crimes committed during the nine-month war.

Hasina's opponents say she is using the tribunal against the two biggest opposition parties - arch rival Begum Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Monday's verdict is the first against any ruling party leader, and counters claims that Hasina is targeting her political rivals.

International human rights groups have said the tribunal falls short of international standards. The government denies the charge.

An Islamist politician was hanged in December, the first war crimes execution in Bangladesh, after the Supreme Court overturned a life sentence imposed by the tribunal.

This month, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a top Jamaat leader over atrocities committed during the war.

Some factions in Bangladesh, including the Jamaat, opposed the break with Pakistan, but the party denies accusations that its leaders committed atrocities.

About 3 million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women were raped.

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