Bangladesh war criminal Ghulam Azam dead at 92

Dhaka, Oct 23: Bangladeshi war criminal Ghulam Azam, who was sentenced last year to 90 years in prison for masterminding atrocities during the country's 1971 war of independence, died tonight aged 92 after suffering a stroke.

Azam, the former chief of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, died in cutody at a hospital here. "He (Azam) died after he suffered a stroke on Thursday night," director of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Brigadier General Abdul Mazid Bhuiyan said. He said Azam died at around 10:10 PM (local time), an hour after he was put on life support system, following a deterioration in his health condition. Azam was kept in the hospital's prison cell since his arrest four years ago for 1971 war crimes as he was suffering from different old age ailments including heart and kidney disorders.

Doctors had yesterday described his condition as "critical" due to the rapid fall in his blood pressure. Prison officials said that in line with the jail code the body would be handed over to relatives by early tomorrow. Azam's death came a day after the Supreme Court accepted appeals against a special tribunal verdict sentencing him to 90 years in prison for committing crimes against humanity and fixed December 2 for a hearing.

This was the second death of a convicted war criminal serving in jail after Former Minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Abdul Alim, who was handed down life imprisonment by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal, died on August 30 aged 84. Azam filed the appeal on August 5 last year seeking to overturn the sentence handed down by the country's International War Crimes Tribunal on July 15.

The government also subsequently filed an appeal seeking the capital punishment for him for masterminding the 1971 genocide, siding with the then Pakistani junta. While delivering the verdict last year, the tribunal said Azam deserved the death sentence for the gravity of the crimes he had committed in 1971 but his old age and poor health forced the three-member panel of judges to sentence him to 90 years in jail.

Azam, who has left deep emotional scars in the collective national psyche by engineering war-time atrocities in 1971, was found guilty of all five categories of crime - conspiracy, planning, incitement, complicity and murder. He had been charged with 61 counts of crimes in the five categories. During his trial, Azam's lawyers defended him by saying he was opposed to the independence due to political reasons. Prosecution lawyers had compared him with German dictator Adolf Hitler.


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