[JURIST] Prosecutors for the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] sentenced 90-year-old former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party (JI) [party website; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] on Monday to 90 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder]. Ghulam Azam was found guilty of five charges [AFP report] of planning, conspiracy, incitement, complicity and murder during the war. He functioned as chief of JI in Bangladesh until 2000, but he maintains that the charges against him are politically motivated. Although prosecutors sought the death penalty for Azam, a government official said he was sentenced to 90 years because of his age and health.
Ghulam Azam was arrested by the ICTB [JURIST report] in January 2012, after his preemptive request for bail was denied by the court. The ICTB began its first trial [JURIST report] in November 2011 for crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The defendant in that trial was Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh [official website, in Bengali] and one of the former leaders of JI. Earlier that month, ICTB prosecutors filed an application [JURIST report] for formal charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a former leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party [party website] who was also accused of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War. In May 2011, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] sent a letter to the Bangladesh government praising its efforts through the ICTB to prosecute war crimes, but urging the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations [JURIST report]. The ICTB was first established in 2010 [JURIST report] to handle war crimes charges stemming from the 1971 war.