DHAKA: Bangladesh’s deadliest executioner died on Monday a year after he was released from prison where he hanged some of the country’s notorious serial killers, opposition politicians convicted of war crimes and coup plotters, police said.

Since he was released from prison last June, Shahjahan Bouya, 70, wrote a top-selling book narrating his experiences as a hangman, briefly married a young girl 50 years younger than him, and in recent weeks took TikTok by storm with short clips with teenage girls.

He felt chest pain on Monday morning at his home in Hemayetpur, an industrial town outside the capital Dhaka, and was rushed to Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Hospital, police said.

“He was brought in dead — doctors haven’t ascertained the actual cause of his death,” Sajib Dey, a police station chief in Dhaka, said. “He had breathing difficulties,” Abul Kashem, Bouya’s landlord, said. “He rented one of our rooms only 15 days ago. He lived alone”. Bouya had been serving a 42-year-old jail term over a murder.

But the dozens of hangings he did in the jails helped reduce his sentence leading to his release from Dhaka’s top jail last year. Bangladesh ranks third in the world for death sentences passed according to rights group Amnesty International, and assigns convicts to carry out the hangings.

A well-read Marxist revolutionary, Bouya in the 1970s joined the outlawed Sarbahara rebels trying to topple a government they saw as puppets of neighbouring India. He was convicted for the 1979 death of a truck driver in crossfire with police.

Prison authorities put Bouya’s total at 26 executions, but he says he participated in 60.

Those to die at his hands included military officers found guilty of plotting a 1975 coup and killing the country’s founding leader, the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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