Rejecting calls for him to be hanged, Bangladesh's top court Monday upheld a life sentence for Jamaat-i-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, convicted of committing war crimes.

The Supreme Court stood by its 2014 decision to jail Delwar Hossain Sayeedi for life over atrocities committed during the 1971 conflict that resulted in the separation of East and West Pakistan.

Sayeedi's lawyers wanted the prominent member of Jamaat-e-Islami acquitted, while government attorneys sought capital punishment for the 77-year-old cleric.

“The court rejected the review appeals by both sides,” Sayeedi's lawyer Tanvir Al Amin told AFP.

Five Jamaat leaders, including Motiur Rahman Nizami, have been executed for their part in crimes committed during the war of independence.

Explore: 1971 war: Witness to history

Sayeedi was sentenced to death in 2013 by a war crimes tribunal, despite criticism by human rights groups that the proceedings failed to meet international norms.

The verdict triggered some of the worst political violence in years in the Muslim-majority nation, with scores left dead as tens of thousands of Islamists clashed with police.

Support for the radical preacher — whose sermons could draw hundreds of thousands — swelled even further after rumours that his image was seen in the moon, a perceived sign of his innocence.

The Supreme Court in 2014 commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment, angering secularists who had fought for decades for top Jamaat-i-Islami members to be punished for war crimes.

Sayeedi and other Islamists from the group were implicated in the murder, rape and torture of Hindus and pro-independence Bangladeshis seeking a nation free from Pakistani rule.

The court decision in Sayeedi's case comes as Bangladesh grapples with a rise in extremism, as the moderate Islam worshiped for generations gives way to a more conservative interpretation of the scriptures.

The secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered a crackdown on homegrown extremists after a series of bloody attacks, but has more recently made concessions to Islamists to try to woo support.


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