DHAKA, Bangladesh – Thousands of extra security officials were deployed across Bangladesh Tuesday ahead of a verdict against the top leader of an Islamist party charged with war crimes that prosecutors says led to the deaths of thousands during the nation's independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
A special tribunal is set to deliver the verdict for Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, who faces 16 charges, including genocide, murder, torture, rape and destruction of property.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people, raped 200,000 women and forced about 10 million people to take shelter in refugee camps across the border in neighboring India during the nine-month war.
A.T.M. Habibur Rahman, a spokesman for the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion, said 8,000 members were deployed in Dhaka and other cities to stop any violence caused by the verdict, as previous verdicts have triggered violence in a country where politics are extremely divisive.
Two special tribunals set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to try people for war crimes have delivered nine verdicts in which 10 people have been convicted. One senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party has already been hanged for his role in killing people in 1971.
The prosecution says Nizami acted as the supreme commander of a militia group, Al-Badr, which carried out a systematic plan to torture and execute pro-liberation supporters during the war, including teachers, engineers and journalists.
He faces charges of personally carrying out or ordering the deaths of nearly 600 Bangladeshis.
The prosecution has asked for a death sentence for Nizami, while the defense argued the charges were politically motivated.
Nizami was a Cabinet minister during former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's last term in 2001-2006, and he was sentenced to death in January in a huge arms cache case.
Jamaat-e-Islami party openly campaigned against independence and its then leader, Ghulam Azam, toured the Middle East to mobilize support for Pakistan, but the party has denied committing atrocities.