Bangladesh: Condemned Opposition Figure Refuses Clemency Bid, Officials Say

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
160902-BD-execution-620.jpg Bangladeshi activists who fought in the war of independence in 1971 celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Dhaka after Mir Quasem Ali lost his final appeal against his death sentence, Aug. 30, 2016.

Death row prisoner and senior opposition figure Mir Quasem Ali could be executed at any time for alleged war crimes committed 45 years ago, after refusing to ask for presidential clemency, Bangladesh officials said Friday.

“He has informed the jail authorities today that he will not seek presidential mercy. Now, the government can hang him at any time,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told BenarNews.

Quasem, a 63-year-old Bangladeshi tycoon and top financier of the faith-based Jamaat-e-Isami (JeI) party, is set to become the sixth senior opposition figure executed for crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, out of which Bangladesh was born.

Four of the five executed to date were senior figures of JeI. They were all tried and convicted by a special tribunal known as the International Criminal Court (ICT) six years ago, which the ruling Awami League-led government set up six years ago.

The last execution of a convicted war criminal took place on May 10, when JeI party chairman Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail.

On Tuesday, Quasem lost his last legal battle to avoid the gallows, when the Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a death sentence handed to him by the ICT in 2014.

‘All preparations are ready’

Quasem was convicted of alleged war crimes including killing, committing torture and running a prisoner camp in Chittagong during the war in 1971, when he fought on the side of pro-Pakistani forces.

At the time, Quasem’s party, JeI Pakistan, opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. He was then was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, JeI’s student front, which evolved into Al-Badr, a notorious pro-Pakistani force that allegedly committed mass killings and rape.

“All preparations are ready. We will execute him as soon as the authorities order [it],” Prashanta Kumar Banik, the superintendent of the Kashimpur jail, where Quasem has been confined near Dhaka, told reporters on Friday afternoon.

Quasem had been given 72 hours to decide whether he would ask the president to spare his life, Banik said.

The Bangladesh constitution gives the president the authority to pardon any convicted prisoners or reduce their punishments.

To receive clemency, convicted persons must confess their crimes and show regret, Alam said.

Other JeI leaders who were executed for similar crimes did not apply for mercy.

In accordance with the jail rules, family members are allowed to bid farewell hours before the scheduled execution.

On Wednesday, family members visited Quasem. Leaving the jail, his wife, Khandaker Ayesha Khatun, told reporters that that meeting was not the last. Since then, they have not visited Quasem.


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