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Bangladesh upholds death penalty for opposition leader for 1971 war crimes

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for an influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister for his role in mass killings during the country's independence war against Pakistan in 1971.

Chief Justice S.K. Sinha delivered the verdict against Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a former aide to ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The ruling clears the way for the man's execution unless he gets presidential clemency.

Chowdhury was convicted in 2013 on nine of 23 charges, including four counts of genocide. He was found guilty of aiding and ordering the killings of at least 200 people, mostly minority Hindus, in the southeastern Chittagong region. He was later elected as the region's representative to parliament six times.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war that ended in December 1971.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to punish the collaborators. More than 15 people have been convicted to death or life in prison and two senior leaders from the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami have been executed.

Jamaat-e-Islami is allied to Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and boycotted the 2014 general elections while criticizing the war crimes trials. The party had openly campaigned against Bangladesh's independence and formed militias to prevent it from breaking away from Pakistan.

PHOTO: Bangladesh's Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, second right, walks out of the Supreme Court during a review of a petition relating to the case of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, convicted of war crimes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for the influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister Khaleda Zia for his role in mass killings during the country's independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
Bangladesh's Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, second right, walks out of the Supreme Court during a review of a petition relating to the case of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, convicted of war crimes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for the influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister Khaleda Zia for his role in mass killings during the country's independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

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PHOTO: Bangladesh's Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, second right, walks out of the Supreme Court during a review of a petition relating to the case of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, convicted of war crimes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for the influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister Khaleda Zia for his role in mass killings during the country's independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
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