A key leader of Bangladesh's main religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity committed during the country's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Justice Obaidul Hassan, chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal 2, delivered the verdict against Mir Quasem Ali on Sunday in the capital, Dhaka, six months after completion of the trial proceedings.

The tribunal found Ali guilty on 10 charges, two of which carried a death sentence, including the abduction of a young man and his killing in a torture cell. He was also sentenced to 72 years in prison on the other charges.

The 62-year-old Ali is a member of Jamaat-e-Islami party's highest policy making body and he is considered to be one of top financiers of the party. He was one of the top three commanders of the anti-liberation party, al-Badr, which is accused of committing atrocities.

His lawyers said they would appeal.

Jamaat leaders convicted so far:
  • Mir Quasem Ali
  • Motiur Rahman Nizami
  • Delwar Hossain Sayedee (reduced to life sentence)
  • Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin (in absentia)
  • Abdul Quader Mollah
  • Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed
  • Abul Kalam Azad (in absentia)
  • Muhammad Kamaruzzaman 
  • Ashrafuzzaman Khan (in absentia)

The government boosted security in and around the court premises to prevent violence from the supporters of Jamaat who have announced a 48-hour nationwide shutdown, protesting the sentencing to death of another Jamaat leader Motiur Rahman Nizami on Wednesday.

The party announced plans for a new strike on Thursday in protest against Ali's death sentence.

Nine Jamaat leaders in total have already been sentenced and two more - Abdus Subhan and ATM Azharul Islam - are being tried.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses during the independence war. Her government says about three million lives were lost and thousands of women were raped during the war.

Critics say the government has abused the process as a political tool to target the two biggest opposition parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Last year, the Jamaat was banned from contesting January's general election that was won by Hasina's Awami League party amid boycott from the BNP.

This year, more than 100 people have been killed in protests over the tribunal's verdicts.

Source: Agencies