Last-ditch appeal hours before hardline leader was due to hang
Family members leave after meeting war crimes convict Adbul Kader Mollah at Dhaka Central Jail on Tuesday (photo by Shahadat Hosen)
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of a top Islamist leader convicted of war crimes following a last-ditch appeal hours before he was scheduled to hang.
Syed Mahmud Hossain, a senior judge of the Appellate Division issued the stay to halt the execution of Abdul Kader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of the hardline Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party who was convicted for war crimes during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.
The appelate court later adjourned on Wednesday without rendering a decision keeping Mollah alive for at least another day.
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Mollah was handed a life sentence in February for war crimes including torture, killing, abduction and arson during the war. The judgment enraged progressives and secularists, sparking a series of protests over several months, with protesters demanding death sentences for him and all others convicted of war crimes.
Both state and defense lawyers appealed against the verdict in the Supreme Court. In September, the court rejected Mollah’s appeal and increased the sentence to death.
State and defense lawyers argued whether Mollah could be executed or whether he can file a review petition. While state lawyers argued that the war crimes law has no provision for an appeal, the defense said an appeal was Mollah’s constitutional right.
In a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon two government ministers said Mollah was to be hanged just after midnight.
“Abdul Kader Mollah has not sought clemency from the president, so the government has made all the preparations to execute him tonight,” deputy law minister Kamrul Islam told reporters.
On government instructions, prison officials prepared for the execution and called Mollah’s family to see the condemned man one last time.
Family members said the government move to execute Mollah is politically motivated.
“This is a political killing. Evidence against my father has been falsely fabricated in the case and the government’s hasty move to execute him is all but a political conspiracy,” said Hasan Jamil, Mollah’s eldest son.
Jamaat-e-Islami called for a nationwide strike on Monday, which saw violence across the country by party supporters.
The Jamaat party opposed Bangladesh independence and its entire leadership stands accused of committing war crimes for collaborating with the Pakistan army by forming militia groups.
Instituted in 2010, the war crimes tribunal has sentenced eight party leaders either to death or life imprisonment. Several politicians, mostly from Jamaat, are still awaiting trial.
Despite popularity among most Bangladeshis, the tribunal has been accused of government influence. New York-based Human Rights Watch said it falls short of international standards.
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