Feb 18, 4:54 AM EST

Bangladesh gives death sentence to 1971 war collaborator

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Bangladesh gives death sentence to 1971 war collaborator

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A special tribunal dealing with war crimes involving Bangladesh's 1971 independence war convicted and sentenced a leading collaborator to death Wednesday for crimes including mass killing, arson and looting.

The head judge of a three-member panel, Obaidul Hasan, delivered the verdict in a packed courtroom in the nation's capital, Dhaka, against Abdus Subhan of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamic political party.

Subhan, 79, is the ninth senior leader of the party to be convicted of such crimes since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated the long-stalled war crimes trials in 2010. One party leader has already been hanged for similar crimes.

Subhan faced nine charges that included the killing of 400 people in several villages in northern Bangladesh.

The defense said it would appeal.

Bangladesh blames Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of 3 million people during the nine-month 1971 war. An estimated 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India.

Trying the war crimes suspects is a daunting task for Hasina because many of them are politically and socially influential, and her archrival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has a political partnership with Jamaat-e-Islami.

After Bangladesh gained independence, there was a process to try the suspects, but it was thwarted following the assassination of then-President and independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - Hasina's father - and most of his family members in a 1975 military coup.

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