90-Year-Old Gets 90 Years for War Crimes

Ghulam Azam fought against Bangladesh independence in 1971

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 15, 2013 8:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – An Islamist leader in Bangladesh during its bloody 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan has been found guilty of war crimes. The 90-year-old Ghulam Azam, former head of top Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, has been sentenced to a jail term of 90 years, though International Crimes Tribunal judges said he deserved the death penalty; they gave him the prison sentence instead because of his age. The tribunal has already sparked protests resulting in at least three deaths; some say he should have been executed, while others slammed what they called a politically driven trial, al Jazeera reports.

"Some kind of justice is done, but we are not happy," says a junior attorney general. Azam, who led Jamaat from 1969 to 2000, faced 61 charges and was found guilty of each one, ranging from incitement to failure to prevent killing. He opposed Bangladeshi independence, the BBC reports, because he believed it would divide Muslims; he was called the "mastermind" in the mass killing of intellectuals near the war's end. Bangladesh says the Pakistani army he assisted killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war, reports AP.

Bangladeshi activists shout slogans as they protest against the verdict of former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ghulam Azam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, July 15, 2013.
Bangladeshi activists shout slogans as they protest against the verdict of former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ghulam Azam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, July 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
Ghulam Azam sits in a wheel chair inside a police van as he is escorted by Bangladeshi police officers to jail in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012.
Ghulam Azam sits in a wheel chair inside a police van as he is escorted by Bangladeshi police officers to jail in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012.   (AP Photo/Zia Islam)
Bangladesh's Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami former chief Ghulam Azam, center on wheelchair, is escorted by security people to a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami former chief Ghulam Azam, center on wheelchair, is escorted by security people to a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh.   (AP Photo)
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