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Dec 23, 3:42 AM EST

Bangladesh sentences war collaborator to death

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Bangladesh sentences war collaborator to death

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Bangladesh sentences war collaborator to death

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Tuesday sentenced a former Cabinet member to death after convicting him of collaborating with the Pakistani army to help carry out several killings of civilians during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war.

Judge Obaidul Hasan announced the verdict against 73-year-old Syed Mohammed Kaiser in a packed courtroom in Dhaka.

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

Two separate tribunals in Bangladesh have been handling war crimes trials since 2010.

Kaiser, the junior minister for agriculture under former military dictator H.M. Ershad, who ruled the country for nine years until 1990, was in the court for Tuesday's verdict and sentencing.

The prosecution welcomed the verdict, while defense said it would appeal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the special tribunals in 2010, reviving a stalled process and making good on a pledge she made before 2008 elections. She has called the trials a long-overdue effort to obtain justice for war criminals, four decades after Bangladesh split from Pakistan.

Since 2010, two tribunals have convicted 13 people, mostly senior leaders of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, which had openly campaigned against independence. The party says the trials are politically motivated.

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