The verdict sparked protests by Mollah’s supporters in the capital, Dhaka, and in the port city of Chittagong.
Mollah’s role in the mass murder in the Mirpur area of Dhaka in 1971 earned him the nickname “Butcher of Mirpur.”
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed's government set up an International Crimes Tribunal to try those accused of participating in the Pakistani army’s campaign of rape and murder against Bangladeshis in the war for independence. According to official estimates, 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women were raped during the war.
Following public outcry, Parliament amended the law to allow the state to appeal any verdict of the war crimes tribunal.
Human Rights Watch said the retroactive legislation violated fair trial standards and undermined the legitimacy of the tribunal’s work.
Both the prosecution and the defense appealed the life sentence for Mollah.
Mollah’s defense team said Tuesday it was stunned by the death sentence.
“The trial process has been shown to be nothing short of a political show trial aimed at removing an Islamist political party, suppressing the opposition and securing the next election for the present Awami League government,” said Toby Cadman, an international defense lawyer for Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of war crimes.
Parliamentary elections are expected early next year.
“The language of the trial judgment clearly demonstrates that it had little to do with individual criminal liability and more about demonising a political opponent,” Mr. Cadman said.
Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbube Alam said the court’s verdict cannot be appealed.