South Asia

Bangladesh executes Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali was executed on Saturday night after deciding not to seek presidential clemency, the last option for a death row convict to avoid the gallows.

Ali, a financial backer of the Jamaat and a business tycoon, was hanged at around 10:30 pm (Bangladesh time) at the high security Kashimpur jail in Gazipur district near Dhaka, the jail authorities said. Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal confirmed the execution.

Quasem, who had led the ruthless Al-Badr militia — that supported Pakistan Army in the port city of Chittagong during nation’s Liberation War in 1971 — became the sixth individual to go to gallows for ‘crimes against humanity’, over four decades after Bangladesh emerged as an independent country through a war against Pakistan .

Before the high-profile execution, jail authorities allowed 22 of Quasem’s family members to meet him.

Tight security

Russel Sheikh, a senior police official, told AFP that officials had taken the “highest security measures” ahead of the execution for fear of violence by his Islamist supporters.

More than 1,000 police personnel were deployed in Gazipur and hundreds of paramilitary border guards were outside the prison and in Dhaka, security officials told AFP.

While the other five convicts were hanged at the Dhaka Central Jail, Quasem was the first person to be hanged outside the capital.

On Wednesday, a day after the Supreme Court upheld Quasem’s death penalty, the Jamaat leader had sought more time to decide on seeking a presidential clemency, which would require an admission of guilt. He later changed his mind and decided not opt for it

Quasem, prior to his arrest in 2012, had headed the Diganta Media Corporation, which owns a pro-Jamaat daily and a television station that was shut down in 2013 for stoking religious tensions.

He was convicted in November 2014 for a series of war crimes including the abduction and murder of a young independence fighter.

Quasem had appealed against the tribunal’s verdict but it was rejected by the Supreme Court. He later filed a petition for a review of the appeals verdict in March this year. A bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice S.K. Sinha, had dismissed the review petition earlier in the week.

Jamaat, which is banned from contesting elections, has labelled the charges against Ali “false” and accuses the government of exacting “political vengeance”.

A group of United Nations human rights experts last week urged Bangladesh to annul Ali’s death sentence and to retry him in compliance with international standards.

When Bangladesh’s independence war broke out, Jamaat had opposed the struggle, siding with the military regime in Islamabad.

As the president of its students’ wing, Islami Chaatra Sangha, the “Bangali Khan”, as Quasem was widely known, had reportedly set up a torture camp in Chittagong, where scores of pro-freedom individuals were tortured and killed.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 10:05:49 PM |

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