DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh’s war crimes court on Tuesday sentenced a former government minister to hang for rape and genocide during the 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan.
Syed Mohammad Kaiser became the 15th person to be convicted of atrocities by the International Cri-mes Tribunal, which found him guilty of heading a militia that roun-ded up and killed some 150 people in the nine-month conflict.
The 73-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, did not react as the judge read out the verdict and said he would be “hanged by the neck until his death”.
Lawyers for Kaiser, a former minister with the Jatiya Party which forms part of Bangladesh’s ruling coalition, have rejected the charges and say they will appeal.
The government of Prime Minis-ter Sheikh Hasina created the Inter-national Crimes Tribunal, a domes-tic court, in 2010.
It has mostly focused on the trials of the leaders of the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, although a former minister of the main op-position Bangladesh Nationalist Party has also been sentenced to hang.
Prosecutors said Kaiser had raised a pro-Pakistani militia that carried out a series of murders, rapes and looting. Judge Obaidul Hassan said the prosecution proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that Kaiser had established the militia, which crea-ted a “reign of terror”.
Prosecutor Mohammad Ali told AFP that Kaiser led his militia and Pakistani forces to attack 22 villages in the Brahmanbaria area near the border with India on November 15, 1971. “At least 108 unarmed Hindu civilians were killed. Scores of their houses were looted and set on fire,” he said.
Kaiser joined the centre-right Ja-tiya Party in the 1980s and was elec-ted to parliament. He was made state minister for agriculture by military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad.