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Bangladesh Islamist party leader hanged

September 3, 2016

A top leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party has been hanged after his conviction by a controversial war crimes tribunal. He is the fifth leader from the party to be executed since 2010.

Bangladesch Dhaka Kashimpur jail
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Yarthur

Mir Qasem Ali, a key leader and top financial backer of Bangladesh's top Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, was hanged late on Saturday after being convicted for offenses committed during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

Ali, 63, was put to death at the Kashimpur high security jail in Gazipur, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital Dhaka (above photo).

He was given a capital sentence in November 2014 by a special tribunal set up to try suspected war criminals who worked with the Pakistani military during the war. He was convicted for a number of crimes, including abduction, the killing of several people and several other crimes against humanity.

Relatives of Mir Qasem Ali in a car
Ali was visited by family members before his deathImage: picture-alliance/ZUMA Press/S. Kanti Das

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal for reviewing his death sentence.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who established the tribunal, says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the independence war. Independent researchers put the toll much lower.

The war crimes trials are highly controversial in Bangladesh, with Jamaat-e-Islami and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) slamming them as politically motivated shams aimed at getting rid of their leaders. Altogether five leaders from Jamaat and one from the BNP - parties that are partners in the opposition against Hasina - have now been executed.

Violent protests broke out in 2013 following the executions and convictions of Jamaat officials, with 500 people being killed in clashes between tens of thousands of Islamist activists and police.

International criticism

Rights groups have also said the trials are flawed and lack any foreign oversight, while United Nations human rights experts last week urged Bangladesh to retry Ali in compliance with international standards. But the government says the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the 1971 conflict.

Ali, a business tycoon who helped revive Jamaat and make it a major force in the Bangladeshi political landscape, claimed his innocence to the end, and refused to seek a presidential pardon, as that would have meant admitting guilt.

However, news of his death was celebrated in central Dhaka and in Chittagong, where prosecutors said Ali committed wartime atrocities as one of the founders of the al-Badr force commissioned by the Pakistani military to attack civilians.

When the war broke out, Jamaat sided with the military regime in Islamabad and opposed Bangladesh's independence bid.

tj/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)