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Bangladesh's apex court adjourns hearing on war crimes accused's execution review petition


Bangladesh's apex court adjourns hearing on war crimes accused's execution review petition

DHAKA, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Bangladesh apex court has adjourned till Thursday morning the hearing on the acceptability of the review petition filed by a condemned war criminal who was all set to be executed until a dramatic last gasp intervention saved him from the gallows late on Tuesday.

Just about one and a half hour before the convicted war criminal was to hang, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, a chamber judge of Supreme Court (SC), stayed the execution of the Assistant Secretary General of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Party Abdul Quader Mollah until 10:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.

The defense counsels submitted a petition to the chamber judge against the verdict of the apex court that sentenced Mollah to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

During Wednesday's proceedings, the court said the whole matter regarding the execution of Mollah is within the jurisdiction of this court.

A five-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain passed the adjournment order till Thursday at 9:00 a.m. local time despite a petition filed by the attorney general's office Wednesday praying to the apex court to vacate the stay order of the chamber judge.

Justice Hossain was one of the five members of the Appellate Division bench that sentenced Mollah to death, overruling the judgment of International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 that had earlier awarded him life.

Sources said the adjournment means, Mollah, who was awarded capital punishment for war crimes including mass killings, cannot be executed until a further order.

The ICT-2 Sunday evening issued the death warrant for Mollah amid a widespread debate among lawyers on whether the Jamaat leader has the right to move a review petition before the apex court.

Senior Superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail, Farman Ali, told reporters Tuesday night at around 8 p.m. local time that "the death sentence would be carried out at 12:01 a.m. (local time) on Wednesday."

Earlier in the day Bangladesh's State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam told reporters that "Mollah refused to seek presidential pardon."

The country's SC Thursday released the full text of the verdict of the Appellate Division bench, which awarded death penalty to Mollah on Sept. 17.

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 Jamaat leader to life term 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 transformed into a large people's movement, 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 state 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 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.

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 president."

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sunday in a statement that the death sentence against Abdul Qader Mollah should immediately be stayed due to fair trial concerns.

Apart from HRW, United Nations, Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements opposing the planned execution of Mollah.

In the wake of the execution of war crimes convict Mollah, sources said law enforcers have already taken position in different strategically important points of capital Dhaka and many other cities and towns to thwart any untoward situation.

Dozens of people were killed as Jamaat men staged violent demonstrations since the beginning of this year after two tribunals dealing with war crimes cases started to deliver verdicts in war crimes cases.

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.

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 40 years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan.

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 think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.