A Bangladesh-born British man and a US citizen were sentenced to death on Sunday absentia by a special war crimes tribunal for atrocities committed during the 1971 liberation war, 42 years after they fled the country to evade justice.
"They will be hanged by neck until their death," chairman of the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal-2 Justice Obaidul Hassan said while handing down the punishment to the Al Badr leaders — Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin.
All the eleven charges levelled against Khan and Mueen-Uddin by the prosecution have been proved beyond doubt, Hassan announced in a jam-packed courtroom in Dhaka.
"They encouraged, they gave moral support to and participated in the killing of 18 intellectuals," judge Mujibur Rahman Mia said.
"Justice will not be done if they are not awarded capital punishment," senior judge Hassan said.
The judgement also directed authorities to take steps for the extradition of ex-journalist and "operations in charge" of the intellectuals massacre Mueen-Uddin and "chief executioner" Ashrafuzzaman Khan to face justice.
London-based Mueen-Uddin has denied any wrongdoing while Khan, who is living in New York, is yet to make any public statement on the allegations.
The top leaders of infamous Al-Badr, an elite auxiliary force of Pakistani troops manned by activists of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami that opposed Bangladesh's independence, fled the country to evade people's wrath right after Pakistani troops surrendered to India-Bangladesh allied forces on December 16, 1971.
This is the second war crimes case that is going on with the accused absent. The first case was against expelled Jamaat-e-Islami member Abul Kalam Azad who was awarded capital punishment.
This was the ninth judgement delivered by the two special tribunals since Bangladesh initiated the trial of crimes against humanity three years ago in line with ruling Awami League's electoral pledges.
So far, five of the accused have been sentenced to death for war crimes.