Bangladesh Hangs Abdul Qader for War Crimes
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Bangladesh executed opposition leader Abdul Quader Mollah on Thursday for war crimes he committed in 1971, in a move likely to spark more violent protests less than a month before elections are due to be held.
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, Reuters reported.
Hundreds of people in the center of the 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.
At least five people were killed earlier on Thursday 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 person to be hanged for war crimes in Bangladesh, 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 people are on death row for their part in the conflict, which saw killings on a mass scale, the exodus of more than 10 million refugees and military intervention by neighboring India.
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 in a statement on the party's website that people would revenge Mollah's killing and has called for a general strike on Sunday.
Many Bangladeshis support the ICT, believing that those convicted of war crimes should be punished, underlining how events of 42 years ago still resonate in a society uncertain over what role Islam should play.
Human rights groups have accused the 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."
Mollah's case has deepened the rift between Hasina and Khaleda, whose enmity has overshadowed Bangladesh politics for more than 20 years. Khaleda is demanding that Hasina step down and make way for a caretaker government before the vote, as has happened during previous elections in Bangladesh, but Hasina has so far refused.
Khaleda's BNP has staged a series of blockades that are crippling the Bangladesh economy, which relies heavily on a $22 billion garment industry supplying some of the biggest retailers in the West and employing four million people, mostly women.