[JURIST] The second International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page; JURIST news archive] on Monday sentenced to death 64-year-old televangelist Abul Kalam Azad, also known as "Bachchu Razakar," for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The ICTB found Azad guilty in absentia of murder, rape, destruction of property, theft and of threatening witnesses to keep them from testifying against him. Azad, a former leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [official website; GlobalSecurity backgrounder], is said to have collaborated with Pakistani forces in the murder of Hindus during the war before fleeing to Pakistan to avoid charges [JURIST report]. However, the party as a whole has denied allegations that it collaborated with Pakistan, and has asserted that the current government fabricated war crimes [Reuters report] to leverage political power. Azad's sentence is the first to be handed down by the ICTB, with 11 other defendants currently awaiting verdicts.
Bangladeshi officials established the ICTB [JURIST report] in March 2010 to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War, during which officials estimate that Pakistani soldiers and local militia participated in more than three million killings and 200,000 rapes. Since then, the ICTB has been fraught with controversy and conflict. Earlier this month, the second ICTB rejected a plea for a re-trial [JURIST report] from JI assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Molla. The tribunal included three high court judges and six investigators retired from civilian, law enforcement and military careers, however Justice Mohammed Nizamul Huq resigned from his post [JURIST report] in December. In June the ICTB rejected a bail petition [JURIST report] from JI leader and former Parliament member Delwar Hossain Sayeedee. In January 2012, the ICTB ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of Ghulam Azam, 89, for alleged crimes against humanity. In November 2011 the ICTB began its first trial [JURIST report] with the case against Delwar Hossain Sayedee. He is charged with 20 alleged violations of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 [text, PDF] including genocide, arson, rape and torture.