Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty handed down for a Jamaat-e-Islami leader for atrocities committed more than four decades ago, the latest in a spate of rulings against the Islamist party’s officials.
Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, 62, assistant secretary-general of the party, was found guilty on Monday of genocide and torture of unarmed civilians during the 1971 war to breakaway from Pakistan, by a special war crimes tribunal in May last year.
“Under Bangladesh jail code, the execution of an accused could be carried out within 21 days and before 28 days of the Supreme Court’s latest upholding of a death sentence,” Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury reported from Dhaka.
“The jail authorities will start the process of his execution after getting the certified copy of the verdict,” our correspondent said, adding that Kamaruzzaman can only file a review petition to “buy a little more time, or hope for presidential clemency, which is unlikely to be granted under the present government”.
|Leaders convicted and sentenced so far:|
November 2, 2014: Mir Quasem Ali – tried on 14 charges.
October 29, 2014: Motiur Rahman Nizami – tried on 16 charges.
November 13, 2013: Ashrafuzzaman Khan – indicted on 11 charges (in absentia).
November 3, 2013: Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin – tried on 16 charges (in absentia)
July 17, 2013: Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed – tried on seven charges.
May 9, 2013: Muhammad Kamaruzzaman – indicted on one charge.
February 28, 2013: Delwar Hossain Sayedee – tried on eight charges. Reduced to life sentence
February 5, 2013: Abdul Quader Mollah – tried on six charges. Executed on December 12, 2013.
January 21, 2013: Abul Kalam Azad – indicted on eight charges (in absentia).
On Sunday, media tycoon Mir Quasem Ali, who is also a key figure in Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, was sentenced to death for war crimes.
This comes only days after the party’s top leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, was sentenced to death for heading an armed group in 1971.
Ali, also a shipping and real estate tycoon, became the eighth Islamist sentenced to death by the controversial war crimes court, set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government in 2010.
The decision, announced on Wednesday, sparked protests by supporters as the Jamaat party called a nationwide strike.
The stoppage was still in effect on Sunday, with many schools and businesses closed and traffic thin. Fresh protests are expected after the court’s latest decisions.
Similar judgements against other Jamaat officials last year plunged the country into one of its worst crises. Tens of thousands of Jaamat activists clashed with police in various protests that left some 500 people dead.
“The government now wants to get over with all the verdict, but no one is quite sure whether it will carry out the sentences as hurriedly as it has done with the verdicts,” Al Jazeera’s Chowdhury said.
“Analysts here believe that the government may not take further political risk by executing the convicted war criminals so soon, and risk facing unrest and protest down the road, especially when the main opposition is threatening a move soon for an inclusive new general election, something yet to be seen,” our correspondent explained.
Bangladesh blames Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of 3 million people during the nine-month 1971 war. An estimated 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighbouring India.
Since 2010, the special tribunal has convicted 12 people, mostly senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, which had openly campaigned against independence but denied committing atrocities.