Bangladeshi tribunal sentences five to death for 1971 war crimes

The judges said the convicts had used rape as a weapon and that their victims had to live with the repercussions of those attacks for the rest of their lives

Dhaka: Five hardline Islamists were sentenced to death on Monday by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for committing crimes against humanity and siding with the Pakistani troops in carrying out a genocide in a village during the Liberation War in 1971.

A three-member panel of Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal led by Justice Shahinur Islam handed down the capital punishment to the five men for raping at least 15 women of Itabaria village of Patuakhali during the Liberation War.

They were also sentenced to death for killing 17 people, vandalism, arson, abduction, confinement and torture in the same village in 1971.

The judges said the convicts had used rape as a weapon and that their victims had to live with the repercussions of those attacks for the rest of their lives. “These women are our true war heroes. It is time to recognise them,” the tribunal said in the verdict.

Pronouncing its verdict, the court said that the five convicts — Mohammad Esahaque Shikder, Abdul Gani alias Gani Howlader, Mohammad Awal, Mohammad A Sattar Pada and Solaiman Mridha alias Soleman Mridha — should be hung until they were dead.

All the five convicts were present on the dock as Justice Islam pronounced the verdict.

According to the prosecution, the convicts were members of the infamous Razakar Bahini, an auxiliary force of the Pakistan Army in 1971, but they were involved with the local wing of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) at the time of their arrests in 2015.

The judgement came nearly three months after the tribunal wrapped up the hearing.

As per legal provisions, the convicts can now challenge the tribunal’s verdict only in the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Since 2010 when Bangladesh launched the belated process of trying 1971 war criminals, the tribunal has executed six convicts, five of whom were leaders of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and one was associated with the BNP.

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