Bangladesh executes opposition leader

Abdul Quader Mollah execution is the first for crimes related to the country’s 1971 war of independence.

The Supreme Court rejected an earlier life sentence imposed by the country’s war crimes tribunal [File/Reuters]
Bangladesh has hanged opposition leader Abdul Quader Mollah over war crimes, making him the first person to be put to death for massacres committed during the country’s bloody 1971 war of independence.

Abdul Quader Mollah, 65, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, was hanged on Thursday at 10.01 pm (1601 GMT) in a jail in the capital Dhaka, government officials said.

The legal case against Mollah has heightened political tension in Bangladesh less than a month before elections are due. Jamaat-e-Islami is barred from contesting elections but plays a key role in the opposition movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from the capital Dhaka, said that judges ancestral homes had been attacked in the wake of the decision.

Micro-level civil war

“It has been a very tense atmosphere in which this review is going on,” our correspondent said.

“People are worried, it’s almost like a micro-level civil war.”

While a strong reaction to the decision from JI was expected on the streets of Dhaka, the city remained relatively calm.

But party activists clashed with police, torched or smashed vehicles and exploded homemade bombs on Thursday in three other major cities, including Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi, TV stations reported.

Scores of people were injured in the latest violence to hit the South Asian country, which has seen weeks of escalating tension as it struggles to overcome extreme poverty and rancorous politics.

In eastern Bangladesh, security officials opened fire to disperse opposition activists, leaving at least three people dead and 15 others wounded, Dhaka’s leading Bengali-language newspaper, Prothom Alo, reported.

The violence broke out in Laxmipur district, 95km east of Dhaka, during a nationwide opposition blockade after elite security forces raided and searched the home of an opposition leader, the report said.

Life sentence overturned

The Supreme Court passed the order of a review petition filed by Mollah against its verdict, awarding him the death penalty for his wartime offences. He had originally been due to be hanged at 18:00GMT on Tuesday, his lawyer said, but the court delayed the execution to consider his petition.

His original life sentence had been overturned by the Supreme Court in September, after mass protests called for him to be hanged.

A panel of five judges led by Chief Justice Mohammad Mojammel Hossain rejected the petition after hearing arguments on the appeal against the death penalty, a state prosecutor said.

Mollah is one of five opposition leaders condemned to death by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), set up in 2010 to investigate atrocities perpetrated during the 1971 conflict, in which three million people died.

Critics of the tribunal say it has been used as a political tool by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is locked in a political feud with BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia, as a way of weakening the opposition ahead of January 5 elections.

But many Bangladeshis support the court, believing that those convicted of war crimes should be punished, underlining how the events of 42 years ago still resonate in the impoverished, divided nation of 160 million people.

 

Source : Al Jazeera

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