Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah, infamous as the "butcher of Mirpur", was today sentenced to death for 1971 war crimes by Bangladesh Supreme Court, eight months after a special tribunal awarded him life imprisonment.
"He is being handed down the capital punishment," ruled Chief Justice M Muzammel Hossain, as the five member-bench headed by him reviewed the first case of the "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.
Mollah, 65, the fourth-highest Jamaat leader, is the first politician to be found guilty by the Supreme Court after it rejected an appeal to acquit him of all charges.
Reviewing two appeals of the verdict handed down by International Crimes Tribunal, the top appeals court sentenced the Jamaat leader to death with a 4-1 majority.
The bench delivered the judgment on appeals against the tribunal verdict which in February this year handed down life sentence to Mollah, the assistant secretary general of Jamaat.
Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, while the tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012 on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attacks on unarmed civilians, "causing commission of the horrific genocides, murders and rapes".
The witnesses earlier testified that he led the literal slaughtering of several families entirely and in one such incidents his assassin group preferred to thump to death a two-year child while shooting dead the other inmates of the house at Mirpur area of Dhaka while the atrocities earned him the repute of being the "butcher of Mirpur" in Bangladesh.
Mollah's lawyers said they would seek to the judgment reviewed again by the apex court itself as it appeared "unacceptable and surprising" as "there is no instance in the country's judicial history when the apex court enhanced the trial court sentence".
The prosecution said under the law the defence might file a review petition within next one month but the apex court might dispose it within a day if it found no merit in it.
"The Appellate Division today had no scope to deliver any judgment other than the death penalty since all the charges were proved," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters.
The February verdict triggered massive controversies and protracted street protests by 1971 veterans and youngsters who believed the punishment was too lenient compared to his crimes. However, Jamaat countered them with violent protests across the country and in pockets known to be its stronghold, leading to deaths of 150 people.