Bangladesh's Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of an Islamist leader who was convicted last year by a war crimes tribunal for his role in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee, now 74, will instead spend the rest of his life in prison, a five-member panel of judges ruled today.

As NPR's Julie McCarthy reported last year, Sayedee, a leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted in February 2013 of eight of 20 counts, including murder, arson, rape and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. The decision prompted violence across the country, leaving dozens dead.

Here's more from McCarthy about Bangladesh's creation:

"When Britain ended its colonial rule of India in 1947, two countries emerged, India and Pakistan. However, Pakistan was made up of two separate pieces of land — one to the west of India and one in the east."The two parts of Pakistan had an uneasy relationship for years, and East Pakistan fought a bloody war in 1971 to become the independent nation of Bangladesh. It's estimated that 3 million people were killed and thousands of women were raped. The Jamaat-e-Islami party opposed independence from Pakistan."

The Associated Press addsthat Chief Justice Muzammel Hossain did not explain his rationale for the reduced sentence.

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