Bangladesh has executed a senior leader of the country’s largest Islamist party for alleged crimes against humanity during the nation’s liberation war against Pakistan in 1971.
Assistant Secretary-General of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Abdul Quader Molla, 65, walked the gallows at 10:01pm Thursday night. An ambulance carrying Molla’s body came out of the Dhaka Central Jail gates at 11:14pm.
According to a police officer, Khilgaon OC Sheikh Sirajul Islam, charged with escorting the ambulance, the body will be taken to Molla’s ancestral home in Faridpur.
The 65-year-old was the first “war criminal” to be executed by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for his supposed involvement in Bangladesh’s war of independence against Pakistan in 1971.
In an immediate reaction, Molla’s younger brother Molla Mainuddin Ahmed has said all that the Almighty does is always for the best – “He will be the judge of it.”
Mohammad Ali, conducting prosecutor at the tribunal, said: “In light of the pro-liberation spirit and the values of 1971, I am the happiest person in the world, as well as the conducting prosecutor in this case.”
Defence counsel Tajul Islam said: “I have nothing to say about it. The people of the world have spoken on it. I believe Quader Molla was innocent. History will judge this.”
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said: “Rule of law has been established through this execution.”
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique said the people were waiting for this – “This execution finally fulfils their expectations. I hope other war criminals will also be executed through expedited trials.”
Additional Attorney General and a coordinator tribunal’s prosecution team, MK Rahman said justice had been established after 42 years. “We have finally been able to absolve ourselves (from guilt).”
The execution had been halted on Tuesday when defence lawyers won a last-minute stay of execution. However, their subsequent review petition was dismissed in court on Thursday.
Mollah’s hanging is expected to deepen political turmoil in Bangladesh, where the ruling Awami League has been unable to reach agreement with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP), an ally of JI, over acceptable conditions for holding forthcoming national election.
Editor of the Dhaka Tribune, Zafar Sobhan said: “With the country already a tinderbox, the execution of Quader Mollah will almost certainly be the spark that sets it all aflame.”
In her 2008 election campaign, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Bangladesh’s murdered independence leader, vowed to hold a war-crimes tribunal to bring to justice the worst perpetrators of violence during the liberation struggle.
But both within Bangladesh and abroad, the tribunal process is seen as deeply flawed, with critics accusing Ms Hasina’s government of using it to eradicate her contemporary political rivals rather than deliver credible justice.
Mollah was convicted by the tribunal in February of rape, murder and other offences, and was originally sentenced to life in prison. But after mass protests from secular youths unhappy with what they considered a lenient punishment, Ms Hasina’s government pushed a new law through parliament that would allow the prosecution to appeal the sentence.
In September, the Supreme Court overturned the life sentence, and ordered Mollah to be put to death – dismaying international human rights groups, who argued that changing the rules midstream violated the basic tenets of a fair trial.
Said Tajul Islam, one of Mollah’s defence lawyers, said before the hanging: “They want to execute at least one of their political enemies before they lose power.”
Diplomatic sources had also suggested that the prime minister had wanted to execute at least one of those convicted before the symbolic date of December 16, the day Pakistani soldiers surrendered in 1971. The days prior were particularly gruesome as Pakistani troops and their local sympathisers rounded up intellectuals and minorities.
Molla’s farewell message
Abdul Quader Molla said to his family members who visited him for the last time on Tuesday:
“I have been your guardian. If this government kills me unjustly, then that will be a death of martyrdom. After my martyrdom, Allah the Almighty will be your guardian. He is the best of guardians. So you have no reason to worry.
“I am totally innocent. They are killing me only because of my involvement with the Islamic movement. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a death of martyrdom. Whoever is blessed with martyrdom by Allah is indeed a fortunate person.
“If I receive the martyrdom then that will be the greatest achievement of my life. Every single drop of my blood will speed up the advance of the Islamic movement and will cause the destruction of the oppressor. I am not worried about myself. I am concerned about the future of the country and the Islamic movement.
“To the best of my knowledge, I have never done anything wrong. I have dedicated my whole life to the Islamic movement for the salvation my people of Bangladesh. I have never bowed down to injustice, and will never do so in the future. It is out of question to seek forgiveness/clemency to any worldly person. Allah is the owner of the life. Only Allah will decide how I would die.
“My death will not happen according to the decision of any other person. The time and the manner of my death will happen only according the decision of Allah. So, I will accept the decision from Allah happily.
“You must observe patience. Only through patience and tolerance you will achieve the victory promised by Allah. Not this world, but the hereafter is my goal. I request to the countrymen for prayers for the acceptance of my martyrdom by Allah. I give the countrymen my Salam.”