A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Wednesday sentenced the leader of the country's largest Islamist party to death for his role in the deaths of thousands of people during the nation's independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, sat calmly in the dock as the head of a three-judge panel, M. Enayetur Rahim, read the verdict in the packed courtroom in Dhaka, the capital.
Outside, police and paramilitary units patrolled the streets because previous verdicts by the tribunal have sparked violence.
Nizami's Jamaat-e-Islami party denounced the verdict in a statement and called nationwide general strike for Thursday, Sunday and Monday. Friday and and Saturday make up the weekend in Bangladesh.
Nizami, a former Cabinet minister, was tried on 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.
The prosecution said 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.
The group is blamed for killing dozens of people by kidnapping them from their homes just before Pakistan surrendered to a joint force of India and Bangladesh on Dec. 16, 1971. At that time, Nizami was also the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, in what was previously called East Pakistan.
He faces charges of personally carrying out or ordering the deaths of nearly 600 Bangladeshis.