People take part in a torch-lit rally as they celebrate after the Supreme Court rejected Abdul Quader Mollah’s request for an appeal against his death sentence in Dhaka yesterday.
DHAKA: Bangladesh executed Islamist opposition leader Abdul Quader Mollah yesterday for war crimes he committed in 1971, in a move likely to spark more violent protests less than a month before elections.
Mollah was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail after a dramatic week. He won a reprieve on Tuesday hours before he was to be sent to the gallows. After two days of legal argument, the Supreme Court rejected his application for a review of the death penalty.
Hundreds of people in the centre of capital Dhaka cheered and punched the air in celebration, underlining how Mollah’s case has divided opinion in the impoverished South Asian nation of 160 million.
“Justice has been served, though we had to wait for 42 years,” said university student Afzal Hossain. At least five people were killed in clashes between opposition activists angered by the decision to execute Mollah and police near the port city of Chittagong. Police fired tear gas and vehicles were torched.
Mollah was assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is barred from contesting elections but plays a key role in the opposition movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
He was the first to be hanged for war crimes, having been convicted by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up in 2010 to investigate atrocities perpetrated during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Four other Islamist leaders are on death row for their part in the conflict, in which 3m people died and at least 200,000 women were raped.
Critics of the tribunal say it has been used as a political tool by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is locked in a long and poisonous feud with BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia, as a way of weakening the opposition as January 5 elections approach.
Jamaat’s acting leader Moqbul Ahmed said on the party’s website that people would revenge Mollah’s “killing” by deepening the role of Islam in Bangladesh. He called for a general strike on Sunday.
Human rights groups have accused ICT of denying Mollah a fair trial and the right to appeal. “The execution of Mollah should never have happened,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh researcher. “The country is on a razor’s edge with pre-election tensions running high and almost non-stop street protests.” Reuters