DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities on Saturday hanged a top Islamist leader for overseeing a massacre during the nation’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan, with hundreds of people in the capital Dhaka celebrating the death of a “war butcher”.
Security was tightened outside the jail and across the country as specially trained convicts took Mohammad Kamaruzzaman to a makeshift gallows and hanged him using a rope, in line with Bangladeshi jail procedure.
“Mohammad Kamaruzzaman has been executed at 10:30 p.m. Bangladesh time,” Law and Justice Minister Anisul Huq told AFP.
The Islamist was declared dead by a magistrate and a government doctor.
Kamaruzzaman, the third most senior figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted of abduction, torture and mass murder as one of the leaders of a pro-Pakistan militia that killed thousands of people.
The Jamaat party condemned “the government’s pre-planned murder of writer, journalist and Islamic scholar” Kamaruzzaman and called a nationwide strike for Monday in protest at the hanging.
Hundreds of people burst into cheers and made victory signs as news of the execution was announced in central Dhaka, where they gathered to celebrate the death of a man they called a “war butcher”.
Bangladesh went ahead with the execution despite last-minute pleas by the United Nations, the European Union and human rights organizations to halt the hanging. The UN said the trial did not meet “fair international” standards.
Just hours before the execution, Kamaruzzaman’s family visited him at the prison.
“We found him in good health and not worried about his fate at all,” his eldest son Hasan Iqbal told AFP after seeing his father.
“In his last comments, he regretted he did not see the victory of Islamic movement in Bangladesh. But he was confident it would be victorious here one day,” he said.
Kamaruzzaman, 62, became the second Islamist to be hanged for atrocities during the 1971 war. Abdul Quader Molla, Jamaat’s fourth-highest ranked leader, was hanged in December 2013.
Hundreds of Jamaat activists were killed in 2013 when the party held a series of nationwide protests to halt the war crimes trials of its leaders, and tens of thousands were arrested.