(From Reuters)

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death penalty for a top Islamist party leader over atrocities committed during the war of independence more than four decades ago, paving the way for his execution.

Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, 67, secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted in 2013 on charges of genocide, killing intellectuals, torture and abduction during the 1971 war to break away from Pakistan, a ruling that triggered violent protests by supporters.

Mojaheed, a minister during former premier Khaleda Zia’s rule from 2001-2006, could be hanged within months, lawyers said.

 “Everyone in Bangladesh is pleased over this verdict,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters. “There’s no bigger crime than to eliminate the nation’s intellectuals.”

Defense lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said he would seek a review of the judgment and the Jamaat called for a 24-hour nationwide strike on Wednesday in protest.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the war in 2010, paving the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal that Islamists have denounced as part of a politically motivated campaign aimed at weakening Jamaat-e-Islami’s leadership.

Two Jamaat leaders have been executed, one in December 2013 and another in April. International human rights groups say the tribunal’s procedures fall short of international standards. The government denies the accusation.

East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh after the war between India and Pakistan. About three million people were killed.

Some factions in Bangladesh, including the Jamaat, opposed the break with Pakistan, but the party denies accusations that its leaders committed atrocities.

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