Bangladeshi authorities were prepared to execute Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman after the Supreme Court on Monday rejected his final appeal of a death sentence for crimes committed during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
Two years ago, a domestic war crimes tribunal found Kamaruzzaman guilty of killing 120 men in Shohagpur, a village in the central Bangladeshi district of Sherpur known ever since as the “village of widows.”
In 1971, Kamaruzzaman commanded the Al-Badr paramilitary force that aided the Pakistani army during the nine-month war. Last November, the Supreme Court upheld the tribunal’s verdict against him.
“All preparations are ready for his hanging. He will be executed as soon as we get the appeal court judgment on rejection of his review petition,” Forman Ali, an official at Dhaka Central Jail, told reporters.
Earlier on Monday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S.K. Sinha turned down a review petition filed on Kamaruzzaman’s behalf.
“All legal hurdles are over,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters afterward.
Under the constitution, Kamaruzzaman could seek clemency from President Abdul Hamid, but a last- minute reprieve was unlikely, Alam said.
Late on Monday, officials at the jail called relatives of the condemned man to give them an opportunity to visit him one last time.
Kamaruzzaman, 62, is the third most senior figure in Jamaat-e-Islami. The Islamist party is a political ally of the main opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which has been trying to oust the ruling Awami League through work stoppages and transport blockades.
He will be the second convicted war criminal sent to the gallows. In December 2013, his partisan colleague, Abdul Kader Mollah, was hanged for 1971 war crimes.
The Awami League, which led the war against Pakistan’s army, in 2009 took the initiative to try war criminals for crimes committed in 1971. About a dozen people have been tried so far, mostly senior leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the BNP.
Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed Bangladesh’s liberation war and sided with Pakistan, says the trials are politically motivated. The party called a 48-hour general strike – starting Tuesday - to protest the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.