DHAKA: An Islamist opposition leader in Bangladesh won a dramatic stay of execution on Tuesday hours before he was due to be hanged, according to his lawyers, allaying fears for now of a violent backlash less than a month before elections are due.
Abdul Quader Mollah, who was found guilty in February of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, was due to be hanged at one minute past midnight (1801 GMT) at Dhaka Central Jail.
But Mollah’s lawyers rushed to petition a judge, who agreed to delay the execution pending a hearing at 10.30 a.m.
Ending widespread confusion and conflicting reports, Additional Attorney General M. K. Rahman finally confirmed the two sides in the case would meet at the Supreme Court.
He said there was no legal provision for the execution to be reviewed, because the trial had been held by a special war crimes tribunal and thus under separate law.
Mollah is assistant secretary-general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is barred from contesting elections but plays a key role in the opposition movement alongside the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Critics say Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose bitter rivalry with BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia has dominated politics for more than two decades, has used the tribunal to target Jamaat and weaken the opposition.
Human rights groups say the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) procedures fall short of international standards.
Previous rulings by the ICT, set up in 2010 to investigate atrocities during the 1971 conflict, sparked deadly clashes across the impoverished nation of 160 million people.
Sporadic violence broke out on Tuesday, including in the southern district of Feni where one person was killed in clashes between police and Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat, police said.
Jamaat activists also torched vehicles and exploded crude bombs in Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong.
In Dhaka, hundreds of people who supported the tribunal angrily chanted for Mollah’s execution to be carried out.
The latest bone of contention between Khaleda and Hasina is the election, which has been set for Jan. 5.
The BNP wants to postpone the vote until after the formation of a caretaker cabinet that would remove Hasina from power, a demand the prime minister has so far resisted.
The announcement of plans for Mollah’s execution initially dashed hopes that the two sides could be edging toward a compromise. see more