Jamaat leader’s appeal to scrap death sentence rejected
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to scrap the death sentence on a senior figure in the country’s largest Islamist party for genocide and torture during the 1971 war of independence, sparking protests in which one student was killed.
Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, 63, an assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, had appealed against his sentence on March 5.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry in 2010 into crimes committed during the war, paving the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal that Islamists have denounced as part of a politically motivated campaign aimed at weakening Jamaat-e-Islami’s leadership.
In protest at Monday’s ruling by the country’s top court, the party called for a 48-hour nationwide strike from Tuesday morning.
One activist in the party’s student front was killed and another three were injured in protests in Noakhali, 191 km (120 miles) southwest of Dhaka.
The acting head of Jamaat-e-Islami, Maqbul Ahmed, said in a statement: “The government has become desperate to kill the top leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami in order to wipe out the party.”
Mahbubey Alam, the chief lawyer of state, said that if Kamaruzzaman sought mercy from the president, then the execution would not be possible until his decision.
Kamaruzzaman’s lawyer said he would decide on his next move after meeting his client.
International human rights groups say the tribunal’s procedures fall short of international standards, an accusation the government denies.
Senior Jamaat-e-Islami official Abdul Quader Molla was hanged for war crimes in December 2013 after the Supreme Court overturned a life sentence imposed by the tribunal. His is the only such execution so far, but eight others have been sentenced to death for their actions in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Kamaruzzaman was first sentenced to death in May 2013.
More than 200 people were killed in protests against the cases in 2013, including Islamist party activists and members of the security forces.
The territory of East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces. About 3 million people were killed in the conflict.
Some factions in Bangladesh, including Jamaat-e-Islami, opposed the break with Pakistan. The party denies accusations that its leaders committed murder, rape and torture.