Top Jamaat leader executed in Bangladesh for 1971 war crimes

Top Jamaat leader executed in Bangladesh for 1971 war crimes

Senior fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah was executed tonight for genocide during Bangladesh's 1971 liberation war, making him the first politician to be hanged for such crimes.

"He has been executed at 10.01 pm (9.31 pm IST)," an official told reporters outside Dhaka Central Jail.

Mollah's body was kept hanging for 20 minutes before it was brought down, Dhaka's Deputy Commissioner Sheikh Yususf Mreedha said.

The 65-year-old Mollah was notorious as the "Butcher of Mirpur" for atrocities like rape and the killing of women and children perpetrated in a suburb of Dhaka during the war of independence from Pakistan.

Tight security was put in place around the prison complex as the execution was carried out shortly after Mollah's family saw him for the last time. Earlier reports had suggested the execution would take place after midnight.

Jail sources said 60-year-old prisoner Shahjahan Mian carried out the execution as the chief hangman, with assistance from five other prisoners serving long sentences.

TV channels showed an ambulance entering the jail after its huge iron gates were opened, presumably to carry Mollah's body to his village in western Faridpur.

Dhaka's district magistrate, civil surgeon and prison officials witnessed the execution in line with rules while an Islamic cleric administered a special prayer when Mollah sought God's mercy while taking his last bath.

Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and riot police formed a three-tier security blanket as the Jamaat had earlier warned of dire consequence if its assistant secretary general was executed.

Witnesses said Mollah's two sons, four daughters and wife were his last visitors at around 6:25pm.
Mollah, the fourth-highest Jamaat leader, was the first war crimes convict to be sent to the gallows since Bangladesh's independence in 1971.

The apex court earlier today rejected Mollah's petition for a review of his death sentence, removing the last barrier for his hanging two days after his execution was dramatically put on hold in a last-minute reprieve.

Jail officials earlier in the day said Mollah refused to seek presidential clemency under a constitutional provision despite being approached thrice.

Mollah sided with Pakistani troops during the war and gained notoriety for leading the infamous Al-Badr militia in the Dhaka suburb of Mirpur, where he had a role in slaughtering a large number of people, including women and children.

Anticipating protests from Islamists, authorities enhanced security in the capital Dhaka and deployed paramilitary troops in several cities and sensitive areas.

Jamaat has called Mollah's hanging a "political murder" and warned of exacting revenge for "every drop" of his blood.

On Tuesday, the execution of Mollah was stayed less than two hours before he was set to be hanged.

A war crimes tribunal sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment on February 5 but the Supreme Court revised the verdict on September 17 and raised it to death penalty.

After the Supreme Court this morning upheld Mollah's death sentence and rejected his review petition, Islamists and opposition activists rioted in several cities across the country, clashing with police with crude bombs and rocks.

The Jamaat is a key member of the 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Mollah is one of five Islamists and other politicians sentenced to death by a special war crimes tribunal. The opposition has claimed their trials were politically motivated and aimed at eradicating its leaders.

The special tribunal issued the death warrant for Mollah earlier this week after the Supreme Court released the full version of its verdict confirming his capital punishment for committing crimes against humanity during 1971 Liberation War.

Mollah's death is the most high-profile execution since January 2010, when five ex-army officers were put to death over the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nation's founder and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father.

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