Bangladesh: Condemned HuJI Militants ‘Hint’ at Clemency Bid

Jesmin Papri
170320_Mufti_Hannan_620.jpg Police officers flank Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami leader Abdul Hannan (center) as they escort him at a court in Dhaka, June 23, 2014.

A Bangladeshi militant leader and an associate who face imminent execution for an assassination attempt on a British ambassador both indicated Wednesday they were leaning toward seeking presidential clemency to save them from the gallows, a prison official said.

In related developments, the British High Commission in Dhaka told BenarNews on Wednesday that the United Kingdom remained opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. Meanwhile, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Bangladesh to spare the condemned men from execution.

On Sunday, the appellate division of Bangladesh’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) leader Mufti Abdul Hannan and two of his associates to review their death sentences stemming from the attempted assassination on the British High Commissioner in May 2004 – setting in motion final formalities before their likely execution.

Anwar Choudhury, the British ambassador at the time, survived the attack but it killed three police officers and injured dozens of other people.

Hannan and one of his two associates, Sharif Shahedul Alam (alias Bipul), are on death row at Dhaka Central Jail while the third man, Delwar (alias Ripon), is incarcerated in the northeastern city of Sylhet, where the attack occurred.

Clemency from Bangladesh’s president would represent the condemned men’s last opportunity to avoid execution.

“They [Hannan and Bipul] hinted that they would seek mercy from the president,” Mizanur Rahman, the superintendent at Dhaka Central Jail told reporters Wednesday after the appellate court’s full verdict had been to the condemned men.

Md Shafiullah, senior superintendent at Sylhet Central Jail, said the verdict was read to Ripon but he had not decided whether to apply for clemency.

“We are ready to execute him; we will implement the order (hang) whenever the government executive order reaches us,” Inspector General of Police Brig. Gen. Iftekhar Uddin, told a news conference in Dhaka, referring to Hannan.

‘Moving in the wrong direction’

In an emailed response to questions about the case, the British High Commission in Dhaka said the attack on the Dargah-e-Shah Jalal mosque in May 2004, in which the former high commissioner was injured, “was deeply shocking.”

“It is right that the perpetrators of terrorist crimes such as this are brought to justice,” the embassy told BenarNews. “The UK reiterates its longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.”

On Tuesday, global rights watchdog HRW issued a statement demanding that Bangladesh halt the imminent executions of the three men, saying there was evidence that their confessions had been extracted through torture.

“Criminals need to be punished, but Bangladesh is moving in the wrong direction by invoking the death penalty,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said in the statement.

“Bangladesh should instead initiate an immediate moratorium on capital punishment because it is inherently cruel and irreversible, and should never be used, regardless of the crime,” he said.

The statement from Human Rights Watch drew an angry response Wednesday from the head of Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission.

“This is not accessible to me why Human Rights Watch opposes Mufti Hannan’s execution. He has been awarded the punishment, exhausting a transparent legal process,” Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque told BenarNews.

“I do not find any meaning [in the HRW position] when the whole world is united against terrorism and militancy,” he said, adding that the apex court’s verdict “must be implemented.”


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