Bangladesh issues death warrant against Islamist party leader

Bangladesh issues death warrant against Islamist party leader

DHAKA, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Death warrant has been issued by a special tribunal against a high-ranking Islamist party leader who was given the capital punishment for war crimes including mass killings.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 Sunday evening issued the death warrant for Assistant Secretary General of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Party Abdul Quader Mollah.

"The death warrant wrapped in traditional red cloth has been sent to the prison authorities Sunday at 4:00 p.m. (local time), paving the way for his (Mollah) execution anytime soon," a tribunal official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The tribunal issued the death warrant after receiving on Sunday morning the copy of the full text of Supreme Court (SC) verdict meting out death penalty to Mollah for war crimes.

The apex court on Thursday released the full text of the verdict of the Appellate Division bench, which awarded death penalty to Mollah on Sept. 17.

Tajul Islam, a counsel for Mollah, told local media that that they were yet to receive the certified copy of the verdict.

The apex court's Sept. 17 verdict came more than seven months after the ICT-2, set up to try those allegedly involved in war crimes during Bangladesh's nine-month liberation war in 1971, sentenced the leader to life imprisonment.

After the ICT-2 sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment on Feb. 5 for his war crimes, hundreds of people, mostly pro-ruling party men, flocked to Shahbag square, an iconic place in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, demanding death penalty for crimes against humanity in 1971.

The demonstration, which soon transformed into a people's movement and spread across the country and among Bangladeshis living abroad, forced the government to amend the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 on Feb. 17 to ensure the rights of the state to appeal on behalf of the war crimes victims of 1971. The government on March 3 appealed to the SC against Mollah's sentencing, claiming that the punishment was inadequate, and sought the death penalty. The defense appealed a day later seeking acquittal on all charges.

Mollah, who is now behind the bar, was indicted in May last year with six specific charges for his alleged involvement in murders and mass killings in 1971.

Chief defense counsel Abdul Razzaq had termed the Appellate Division bench verdict "wrong" and said they will file a review petition within 30 days of receiving the full verdict.

He said there is no precedent that the Supreme Court gave death sentence for a crime that the trial court had previously sentenced to life imprisonment.

But Attorney General Mahbubey Alam had then said there is no scope to file review petition. "My opinion is that this is the final verdict and the legal process ends. He (Mollah) can only seek clemency from the president."

There seems to be a debate among lawyers on whether Mollah has the right to move a review petition before the apex court.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Bangladesh Awami League ( AL) party and its allies have expressed deep satisfaction with the apex court verdict.

But Jamaat's protest against the verdict later turned violent with its members fighting pitched battles with police in southeastern Chittagong seaport city and elsewhere in the country. Jamaat is a key ally of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's main opposition alliance which has been waging protests, demanding the restoration of a non-party caretaker system to oversee the next general elections slated for early next month.

After returning to power in January 2009, Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010, almost forty years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan.

The tribunal has suffered its big jolt when the judge presiding over the ICT-1 resigned in January after the British magazine The Economist reported that it received e-mails and Skype conversations between the judge and Ahmed Ziauddin, a Bengali citizen who resides in Belgium, from an unknown source.

The e-mails and Skype calls reportedly showed that Ziauddin was playing an important role in the proceedings and that considerable pressure was being exerted by the Bangladeshi government to secure a quick verdict.

Since Jan. 21 this year, two tribunals dealing with war crimes cases have so far delivered verdicts in 10 cases including that of Mollah.

Ten current and former leaders of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat have been sentenced to either death or life imprisonment for crimes against humanity linked to the country's war of independence

Muslim-majority Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. Hasina's government said about 3 million people were killed in the war although independent researchers believed that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.