Jul 18, 11:20 AM EDT

A special tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced three militia members to death for carrying out killings and other serious crimes during the country's independence war against Pakistan


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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Monday sentenced three militia members to death for carrying out killings and other serious crimes during the country's independence war against Pakistan 35 years ago.

Five other defendants were sentenced to life in prison.

Justice Anwarul Haque, head of a three-member panel of judges, announced the verdict in a packed courtroom with only two of the defendants in the docks. The others were tried in absentia.

The accused men were members of the Al Badr militia group that collaborated with the Pakistani army to commit genocide in Bangladesh's Jamalpur district in 1971.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people, raped 200,000 women and forced 10 million people to flee to refugee camps across the border in India.

Prosecution lawyer Tureen Afroz said they were satisfied with the verdict. Defense lawyer Gazi Tamim said they would appeal the verdict.

In 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed a special tribunal to try the suspected war criminals and it has convicted dozens of people. At least five of the convicts have been hanged for war crimes committed during the country's war for independence from Pakistan.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and its main ally Jamaat-e-Islami party criticized the government, saying the trial is aimed at weakening the opposition. But Hasina has rejected the allegations and said the families of the people killed in the 1971 war deserve justice.

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