Bangladesh has executed a high-ranking opposition politician, Abdul Quader Mollah, hours after his Supreme Court appeal attempt was thrown out. The Islamist had been convicted of war crimes committed in 1971.
Hanged in the capital at Dhaka's central jail, Mollah had served as assistant secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami, a party barred from contesting elections, but one that plays a key role in the opposition movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Earlier Thursday, the Supreme Court had refused to hear an appeal to Mollah's death sentence.
"The execution has been carried out," Deputy Justice Minister Qamrul Islam told the news agency AFP, adding that jailers hanged the 65-year-old Mollah at 10:01 p.m. local time (1601 UTC).
Earlier this year, Mollah had been found guilty of committing atrocities - including mass murder and rape - during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan. However, a last-minute petition filed by the defense this week had delayed his execution.
Any questions about Mollah's future were answered late Thursday. His wife and children met with him at the Dhaka jail in the capital one last time hours before the execution and found him "calm."
"He has told us that he is proud to be a martyr for the cause of Islamic movement in the country," Mollah's son, Hasan Jamil, told AFP after the meeting.
'Butcher of Mirpur'
The defense team had argued that the constitution enshrined rights for Mollah - dubbed "the Butcher of Mirpur" - to have his appeal heard in the Supreme Court. Bangladesh's top court rejected the petition.
"We're unhappy," defense lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told reporters on Thursday, after the verdict but ahead of the execution. "He did not get justice."
The Reuters news agency reported that following the verdict Jamaat-e-Islami members in the cities of Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi committed acts of vandalism and set off crude bombs to protest the court's ruling.
First ICT execution
In July, Mollah and five other leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami were convicted of war crimes.
Mollah's execution is the first from a series of trials by a special Bangladeshi court dubbed the International Crimes Tribunal. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established the court in 2009 in an effort to bring justice to victims of the war with Pakistan four decades ago.
Jamaat-e-Islami has alleged that the trials were politically motivated. The Islamist party was a key partner in the former government of Khaleda Zila, who has been a longtime rival of Prime Minister Hasina.
Human rights groups in Bangladesh and abroad have also questioned whether the tribunal meets international legal standards.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)