Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami
Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld death sentence for the head of Jamaat-e-Islami. Picture: Police arrest Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami (C), chief of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, in Dhaka June 29, 2010.Reuters

The Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death penalty awarded to Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami for committing war crimes during the country's Liberation War with Pakistan in 1971.

A four-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha declared the verdict on Thursday in one word — "Rejected," the Indian Express reported.

The 73-year-old Jamaat leader, a former minister in the cabinet of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia, has been in jail since 2010, Reuters reported. He was convicted of genocide, rape, torture and masterminding the killing of top intellectuals during the 1971 war by the tribunal formed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010.

Nizami had filed a final appeal before the Supreme Court for the review of its January verdict in which it upheld a war crimes tribunal's Oct. 29, 2014, order to execute him. A mercy petition to the president of Bangladesh is his last hope to avoid the noose.

It is now to be seen if President Abdul Hamid approves Nizami's the mercy petition. He had in the past rejected mercy petitions of two convicts of 1971 war crimes. Both were hanged late last year, according to the IE report.

A total of four people have been executed since December 2013 for committing war crimes. The formation of the tribunal, and the subsequent trials and sentencing by it resulted in violence, including clashes between Islamists and police, in which at least 500 people killed.

Rights activists groups have also condemned the trials by the tribunal, reportedly saying they lacked international oversight and global standards were inadequately followed.

Italy-based NGO No Peace Without Justice called the tribunal "a weapon of politically influenced revenge whose real aim is to target the political opposition."

The liberation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, from Pakistan in 1971 was followed by a bloodbath. As many as 3 million people were reportedly killed in the war.

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