Bangladesh ex-minister Abdul Alim jailed for war crimes

media captionAbdul Alim, 83, was told he would remain in prison until his death

A special war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has handed a life sentence to a former opposition minister.

Abdul Alim, 83, of the Bangladesh National Party was guilty of nine of 17 charges dating back to the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Six current and former leaders of the main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, have recently been convicted by the same tribunal.

Dozens of people have died during violent protests against the verdicts.

Last week the tribunal sentenced another senior BNP party member, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, to death for crimes against humanity.

Alim was spared the death penalty, despite the gravity of his crimes, because of his poor health, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters.

"He will remain in the prison until his death," he said.

'Political vendetta'

Alim was convicted of involvement in the deaths of 372 Hindus in one of the war's worst atrocities.

Prosecutors said he killed up to 600 people in the north-western Joypurhat district where he headed a branch of a pro-Pakistani militia called Razakar Bahini.

The war crimes tribunal was set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010 and opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents.

Human rights groups and the BNP have both said that the tribunal fell short of international standards.

Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people died in the war of independence. Other researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.

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