Bangladesh is set to hang top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muhammad Quamaruzzaman later on Saturday for committing a massacre during the 1971 independence war, a day after authorities abruptly halted his execution process.
Quamaruzzaman, the third most influential leader in the Islamist party, was originally expected to be hanged this morning, but his execution was postponed at the last minute.
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“We are prepared to execute the verdict by tonight,” a jail official told PTI this morning as the 62-year-old assistant secretary general of Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s 1971 independence siding with Pakistani troops, was kept at a cell at the high security Dhaka Central Jail.
Jail officials had earlier said they were ready to execute him as the civil surgeon and other concerned officials including magistrates, who were required to witness the execution under law, entered the prison on Friday evening.
Newsmen and TV cameras crowded in front of the jail gate while police asked shops around the area to shut their business for the night as part of enhanced-security measures.
But the authorities postponed the execution at the last moment. No official reason was given for the delay, but junior home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said told reporters the hanging would now take place later in the day.
Unconfirmed reports, however, said fears of possible backlash ahead of planned celebration of Bangladesh cricket team’s recent success in the World Cup this afternoon prompted authorities to postpone the execution for a day.
Kamal had earlier said Quamaruzzaman eventually decided not to seek presidential mercy and “he will be given no more time to seek the clemency”.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in May 2013 sentenced Quamaruzzaman to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war.
He was found guilty of mass killing, murder, abduction, torture, rape, persecution and abetment of torture in central Mymensingh region. He was convicted for killing 164 people at a village in his home district in northern Sherpur.
The Supreme Court on November 3 last year upheld his death penalty. The apex court, however, issued the full text of the judgement on February 18 and sent it to the ICT, which immediately issued a death warrant.
The apex court called his crimes “worse than Nazis” when it upheld the judgement of the ICT.
About three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the war.
When the verdict is carried out, Quamaruzzaman will be the second Jamaat leader after Quader Mollah to be executed for the 1971 offences.
The Prothom Alo newspaper quoting an unnamed official said the Jamaat leader told the magistrates that he would not seek the clemency but demanded “some more time”, saying under the Jail Code he deserved seven days time on receipt of the death warrant, which he was served on April 8.
Law minister Anisul Huq and attorney general Mahbubey Alam, however, said the code was not applicable in his case as Quamaruzzaman was tried under a special law called International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 of Bangladesh, which was beyond the purview of the Jail Code.