A special tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced the head of the country's Jamaat-e-Islami party to death for his role in the deaths of thousands during the nation's independence war against Pakistan in 1971.

The head of a three-judge panel, M Enayetur Rahim, announced the verdict on Wednesday against Motiur Rahman Nizami in a packed courtroom in the nation's capital of Dhaka.

The 71-year-old Nizami was in the dock for the announcement, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Nizami, a former cabinet minister, was tried on 16 charges, including genocide, murder, torture, rape and destruction of property.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people, raped 200,000 women and forced about 10 million people to take shelter in refugee camps across the border in neighbouring India during the nine-month war.

Jamaat-e-Islami, in a statement has denounced the verdict calling for a nationwide general strike for three days beginning on Thursday.

Outside the courtroom, police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets after previous verdicts had sparked violence.

Nizami was a cabinet minister during former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's last term between 2001 and 2006. 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies