Dhaka: A top leader of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party in Bangladesh today lost his final bid to overturn his death sentence for war crimes and mass killing committed during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, triggering violence in which a protester was killed. The Supreme Court upheld its previous verdict on Muhammad Quamaruzzaman, rejecting his plea for reviewing his death sentence.
“Rejected”, pronounced Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, a day after the four-member apex court heard the review petition of Jamaat’s 63-year-old assistant secretary general. After the verdict, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that there is no legal bar for the government to execute Quamaruzzaman for his crimes against humanity following the judgement.
He said Quamaruzzaman now could seek presidential clemency within a “logical timeframe”. However, jail officials said they were prepared to execute him anytime from now.
“The government will now fix the time to execute the death penalty after he will meet family members…but he has a choice to seek the presidential clemency,” Alam said. Authorities called out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to enforce a nationwide security vigil to prevent possible violent protests by Jamaat activists. However, soon after the verdict, Jamaat-e-Islami supporters in Noakhali clashed with police. An unidentified youth was killed in the clash while another received gunshot injuries during the clash, police said. One person has been detained.
“All of them were in the procession taken out by the local Jamaat-e Islami,” a police official said. Jamaat, a key ally of Khaleda Zia-lead main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) issued a statement, later also called for a 48-hour nationwide shutdown from tomorrow.
“The government filed the case against Quamaruzzaman based on false, fabricated and airy allegations,” the statement said. Bangladesh in 2013 had witnessed violent protests and counter protests when the tribunal pronounced its initial verdict on Quamaruzzaman.
Law minister Anisul Huq said the convict might get one or two hours to seek the residential clemency and “the verdict will be executed in soonest possible time.” “I have been informed that the jail authorities have invited his relatives to see him for the last time in jail… the execution process will be carried out in soonest possible time,” Huq told reporters.
Quamaruzzaman’s lawyers said it was now up to him to decide if he would seek the presidential clemency and they would meet him at the Dhaka Central Jail to seek his opinion on filing the mercy petition. Attorney General Alam earlier said the ‘Jail Code’ which gives an ordinary death row convict a minimum 21 days for preparedness to walk to gallows were not applicable for condemned war criminals as they are tried under a special law beyond the purview of laws like the Criminal Procedure Code. Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in May 2013 sentenced Quamaruzzaman to death for committing crimes against humanity siding with the Pakistani troops during the 1971 liberation war.
Quamaruzzaman was found him 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 village was later renamed as “Bidhoba Palli” or “village of widows” as virtually all adult married men were killed by the infamous Al-Badr militia forces which he led during the war time.
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. But Quamaruzzaman on March 5 filed a review petition, exhausting his last option. About three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the liberation.