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Bangladesh hangs Jamaat-e-Islami leader for 1971 war massacre

April 12, 2015

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A relative of Kamaruzzaman shows the victory sign after a meeting him at the central prison in Dhaka. -AFP
A relative of Kamaruzzaman shows the victory sign after a meeting him at the central prison in Dhaka. -AFP
JI Bangladesh leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.— AFP/File
JI Bangladesh leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.— AFP/File

DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities on Saturday hanged a top opposition leader for overseeing a massacre during the nation's 1971 independence war.

“Mohammad Kamaruzzaman has been executed at 10.30pm Bangladesh time (1630 GMT),” law and justice minister Anisul Huq told AFP.

Kamaruzzaman, the third most senior figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted of abduction, torture and mass murder.

An ambulance carrying Kamaruzzaman's body left the jail for his home village in northern Bangladesh more than an hour after the execution, jailor Farman Ali told reporters, adding that the vehicle was escorted by a convoy of elite security officers.

The Jamaat party condemned “the government's pre-planned murder of writer, journalist and Islamic scholar” Kamaruzzaman and called a nationwide strike for Monday to protest the hanging.

Hundreds of government’s supporters burst into cheers and made victory signs as news of the hanging was announced in central Dhaka.

Kamaruzzaman, 62, became the second politician to be hanged for atrocities during the 1971 war. Abdul Quader Molla, Jamaat's fourth-highest ranked leader, was hanged in December 2013.

Tight security

Police said security was tightened outside the capital's main jail and across the country ahead of the hanging. “We are alert to prevent any violence or subversive acts,” Dhaka police spokesman Jahangir Alam Sarker told AFP.

Bangladesh went ahead with the execution despite last-minute pleas by the United Nations, the European Union and human rights organisations to halt the hanging. The UN said the trial did not meet “fair international” standards. Just hours before the execution, Kamaruzzaman's family visited him at the prison.

“We found him in good health and not worried about his fate at all,” his eldest son Hasan Iqbal told AFP after seeing his father.

“In his last comments, he regretted he did not see the victory of Islamic movement in Bangladesh. But he was confident it would be victorious here one day,” he said.

The family had dug a grave at his village in northern Sherpur district where he would be buried on Sunday, he added.

The country's Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle for execution of Kamaruzzaman on Monday after rejecting his final appeal against the original death sentence handed down by a controversial war crimes court in May 2013.

He was given several days to seek clemency from the country's President Abdul Hamid to avoid death. But his son said his father did not seek any mercy.

“My father said only Allah can give or take life, not a president,” he said.