Bangladesh Islamist Abdul Kader Mullah hanged for war crimes

The BBC's Mahfuz Sadique reports from Dhaka as Abdul Kader Mullah is executed

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Bangladesh has executed the Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah, who was convicted of atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

He is the first person convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to be executed.

The ICT was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed during the 1971 conflict.

Mullah was a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

At his trial earlier this year, he was described by prosecutors as the "Butcher of Mirpur", a suburb of Dhaka where he is alleged to have carried out his crimes. These included the massacre of unarmed civilians and the killing of intellectuals who supported independence from Pakistan.

Analysis

There was a lot of drama in Dhaka before the execution of Abdul Kader Mullah.

His family members met him for a final time late on Thursday. It appeared the government rushed through the execution after days of legal wrangling.

The execution is likely to trigger further tensions in Bangladesh. Mr Mullah's party said the death sentence was politically motivated and there would be dire consequences if it went ahead.

Bangladesh's major Western partners will view the execution with concern. Supporters of the trial would say this is a historic moment as it came just days before Bangladesh's victory day on 16 December.

But many are concerned that this could polarise the country further.

Mullah always denied the charges.

Four other leading figures in Jamaat-e-Islami have also been convicted by the ICT and face the death penalty.

Celebrations

The execution of Abdul Kader Mullah took place at Dhaka Central Jail at 22:01 local time (16:01 GMT) on Thursday evening, officials announced.

His family were allowed a final meeting with the 65-year-old and found him "calm".

"He told us that he is proud to be a martyr for the cause of the Islamic movement in the country," his son, Hasan Jamil, told the AFP after the meeting.

Hundreds of people gathered in central Dhaka to celebrate the news of his death.

But Jamaat-e-Islami - which has warned it will avenge his death - called for a general strike on Sunday.

Security has been tightened in Dhaka and around the country amid fears the execution is likely to inflame tensions.

At least three people are reported to have died on Thursday in sporadic clashes between Jamaat-e-Islami supporters and security forces.

Human rights concerns

Bangladesh independence war, 1971

Soldier
  • Civil war erupts in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistan army against East Pakistanis demanding autonomy and later independence
  • Fighting forces an estimated 10 million East Pakistani civilians to flee to India
  • In December, India invades East Pakistan in support of the East Pakistani people
  • Pakistani army surrenders at Dhaka and its army of more than 90,000 become Indian prisoners of war
  • East Pakistan becomes the independent country of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971
  • The war was devastating in its brutality but there are a range of estimates for the exact number of people killed - government figures estimate as many as three million died. Other studies suggest 300-500,000 perished.

Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan 42 years ago after a war which saw killings on a mass scale, the exodus of more than 10 million refugees and military intervention by neighbouring India.

The government set up the special court to deal with those accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who attempted to stop East Pakistan, as Bangladesh was then, from becoming an independent country. The two wings of Pakistan were held together mostly by a shared religion.

While many Bangladeshis have welcomed the work of the ICT, Jamaat supporters say it is a politically-motivated attempt to eradicate its leaders.

Human rights groups have also expressed concern that the special court falls short of international standards.

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay had written to the Bangladeshi authorities urging them to stay the execution of Abdul Kader Mullah, saying the trial had not met the international standards required for the death penalty.

Mullah had been scheduled to be hanged on Tuesday, before gaining a reprieve pending a last-minute appeal against his death sentence.

His appeal was dismissed earlier on Thursday by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court.

Jamaat is barred from contesting elections scheduled for 5 January but plays a key role in the opposition movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Relatives of Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah sit in a vehicle leaving Dhaka Central Jail (December 12, 2013) Relatives of Mullah visited the jail on Thursday evening

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