Dhaka: An ex-minister from Bangladesh's main opposition party has been awarded life term for war crimes, including mass killings.
The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 pronounced the verdict in Dhaka Wednesday afternoon, saying former Minister Abdul Alim, who faced 17 charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, would "die behind bars", Xinhua reported.
The 83-year-old Alim of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is alleged to have created and led pro-Pakistan militias which carried out numerous murders and rapes during the nine-month 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
The three-member panel of the ICT-2 read the summary of the 291-page verdict in the presence of a huge crowd including journalists and lawyers amid tight security in and around the area.
Wheelchair-bound Alim has already denied the charges, arguing that these were politically motivated.
After the verdict, Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam told reporters that "nine of 17 charges against Alim were proved beyond a reasonable doubt".
"Alim deserves death penalty but he was not given death sentence considering his age and sickness," he quoted the tribunal as saying in the verdict.
This is the eighth war crimes case verdict in Bangladesh since Jan 21 this year.
Last week the ICT-1 pronounced the verdict in a crime against humanity case, awarding the death sentence to another influential BNP leader and Member of Parliament, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, who is now behind bars.
Six current and former leaders of BNP's key ally, Bangladesh Jamaat-e- Islami party, had earlier been sentenced to either death or life imprisonment for crimes against humanity linked to the country's war of independence.
Both BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government "show trial" and said it was a domestic set up without the oversight or involvement of the UN.
After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal to try war criminals in March 2010, almost 40 years after the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.