Bangladesh on Thursday hanged a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, making him the first person to be put to death for massacres committed during the country’s bloody 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
Deputy Law Minister Quamrul Islam announced the execution, saying Abdul Quader Molla, 65, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, was hanged by the neck at 10.01 pm (1601 GMT) in a jail in the capital Dhaka.
“It’s an historic moment. Finally after four decades, the victims of the genocides of 1971 liberation war have got some justice,” Islam told AFP.
The execution is expected to further inflame tensions in Bangladesh after weeks of deadly violence, and there were reports of fresh clashes soon after the announcement.
The hanging took place just hours after the Supreme Court dismissed Molla’s appeal for a final review of his death sentence, removing the last legal obstacle to his execution.
His wife and children were allowed a final meeting with him at the prison hours before the execution, and found him to be “calm”.
“He told us that he is proud to be a martyr for the cause of the Islamic movement in the country,” Molla’s son Hasan Jamil told AFP after the meeting.
An ambulance entered the jail moments after the hanging amid loud cheers.
Local media reported that Jamaat supporters and opposition protesters clashed with police in several cities shortly after the execution.
Jamaat has called the execution a “political murder” and warned of exacting revenge for “every drop” of Molla’s blood.
But in a sign of the sharp divide in Bangladesh, thousands of secular protesters erupted in celebration as news of the execution came. They had been camping at Shahbagh square in Dhaka since Tuesday night, shouting slogans including: “Hang Quader Molla, hang war criminals.” Molla was originally set to be hanged on Tuesday after he refused to seek presidential clemency.
A judge stayed the hanging just 90 minutes before the scheduled execution amid international concern over the fairness of the war crime trials of mainly opposition leaders.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2013.