Dhaka: Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami's 91-year-old supremo Ghulam Azam was on Monday sentenced to 90-year in jail by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for masterminding atrocities during the country's 1971 war of independence, the fifth and the most-awaited verdict on the war crimes cases.
"He (Azam) will serve 90 years in jail," chairman of the three-member International Crimes Tribunal Fazle Kabir announced at the crowded courtroom, amid tight security as Jamaat-e-Islami enforced a violent nationwide general strike to protest the sentencing of their spiritual leader.
Before the judgement was announced, police fired rubber bullets to disperse Azam's supporters protesting in the capital Dhaka and other cities.
The judgement, however, said Azam deserved the death penalty for the crimes he had committed in 1971 for siding with the Pakistani junta but his old age and physical condition forced the panel to deliver the 90 years of jail term.
Azam, who has left deep emotional scars in the collective national psyche by engineering war-time atrocities in 1971, was found guilty of all five categories of crime - conspiracy, planning, incitement, complicity and murder.
He had been charged with 61 counts of crimes in the five categories. Azam, a provincial minister in 1971, was wheeled in to the court room for the verdict.
"Ghulam Azam's case is a unique one. Ghulam Azam was not physically present during these crimes but he has been accused of being the main man and the overseer of the war crimes during 1971," Justice Kabir said, as the panel pronounced the operative part of an abridged 75-page judgement.
Azam, the then chief of the East Pakistan wing of Jamaat-e-Islami party, was present as the tribunal delivered the crucial verdict. He was "found guilty of all the charges" in course of the trial during the past one year.
During the reading out of the sentence, a second judge, Justice Anwarul Haque, gave the summary of arguments in the case that ended on April 17.
Justice Haque analysed whether or not crimes against humanity at all took place in the various parts of Bangladesh or not.


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