Dhaka: A special Bangladeshi tribunal today sentenced to death a fugitive Islamist opposition leader for crimes against humanity and siding with Pakistani troops during the 1971 liberation war, in yet another verdict against Islamist war criminals.
The International Crimes Tribunal 1 of Bangladesh handed down the death sentence in absentia to Zahid Hossain Khokon,
also known as Khokon Razakar, saying 10 of the 11 charges brought by the prosecution against him were proved.
"He (Khokon) shall be hanged by neck until he is dead," chairman of the three-member panel of judges Justice M
Enayetur Rahim pronounced, adding the verdict would be executed after the arrest of the absconding Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) leader.
Khokon, 70, is the fourth war crimes convict to be handed down the capital punishment after a trial in absentia, while
two war crimes tribunals have so far delivered verdicts after trial of 12 people, sentencing 9 of them to death since 2010.
He was sentenced to death on six charges and to life imprisonment on four others while the prosecution accused him
of crimes like genocide, arson, torture, abduction, rape and involvement in forced conversion of Hindus, the verdict said.
In the appeal process against the verdicts, the Supreme Court, however, enhanced the life term of one of the convicts
to death, finding the tribunal verdict too lenient. In another case, the apex court reduced the death sentence handed down by the tribunal to "imprisonment until death".
Most of the convicts were stalwarts of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, which was opposed to 1971 independence and
supported the Pakistani junta in forming militia groups like Razakar as auxiliary forces of Pakistani troops. Prosecution lawyers alleged that Khokon is currently living in Sweden in an effort to evade justice.
Khokon was the mayor of southwestern Nagarkanda town and went into hiding when a war crimes investigation against him was launched in 2011. Of the other fugitive convicts, two are now living in the United States and Britain and another is believed to have taken refuge in Pakistan.
The tribunal issued arrest warrant against Khokon in July 2013 and indicted him in absentia on October 9 while 24 witnesses testified against him during the trial.