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Bangladesh hangs top Islamist leader

Do Not UseDo Not Use 10/05/2016
Crowd celebrates the execution of Motiur Rahman Nizami in Dhaka, 11 May: Some people beat an image of Nizami with shoes to show their contempt © AP Some people beat an image of Nizami with shoes to show their contempt

An Islamist leader has been hanged in Bangladesh for crimes during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Police officers stand guard outside Dhaka's prison: Police were deployed around Dhaka's prison before the execution © AP Police were deployed around Dhaka's prison before the execution

Motiur Rahman Nizami, 73, was executed early on Wednesday (local time), Law Minister Anisul Haq confirmed.

He had been convicted of genocide, rape and torture.

Nizami had led Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Hundreds of people gathered near his prison in the capital Dhaka to celebrate the hanging.

Nizami was the fifth and highest-ranked opposition leader to be executed since December 2013 for war crimes.

Bangladesh says the prosecutions are needed to heal the wounds of conflict but human rights groups say the trials fall short of global standards and lack international oversight.

War crimes trial: Key accused

Watershed war crimes moment

Bangladesh country profile

'Deprived of justice'

Last week, Nizami lost his final appeal against the sentence. He was hanged after refusing to seek mercy from President Abdul Hamid.

"Nizami has been deprived of justice," Jamaat's acting leader, Maqbul Ahmad, said. "He's a victim of political vengeance."

The party also called for a nationwide strike on Thursday.

Security was tightened across the country ahead of the execution.

Nizami is the fourth leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party to have been executed since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up a war crimes tribunal to look into abuses during the independence war.

A former government minister, Nizami was one of the most important figures to be found guilty.

He was convicted of setting up a militia which helped the Pakistani army identify and kill pro-independence activists.

Nizami will be buried in his village home in the northern part of Bangladesh.

His family met him briefly before his execution but left without speaking to the media, Bangladesh's Daily Star reports.

The hanging comes amid a spate of killings of liberal activists, secularists, foreigners and members of religious minorities that the government has blamed on Islamists.

Bangladesh independence war, 1971

Civil war erupts in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistan army against East Pakistanis demanding autonomy and later independence

Fighting forces an estimated 10 million East Pakistani civilians to flee to India

In December, India invades East Pakistan in support of the East Pakistani people

Pakistani army surrenders at Dhaka and its army of more than 90,000 become Indian prisoners of war

East Pakistan becomes the independent country of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971

Exact number of people killed is unclear - Bangladesh says it is three million but independent researchers put the figure at up to 500,000 fatalities.

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