Bangladesh’s apex court has dismissed the final review petition of the country’s largest Islamist party chief paving the way for his execution.
Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who chaired a four-judge bench, pronounced the verdict on Thursday at 11:30 am local time in a crowded courtroom amid tight security.
The court rejected the petition of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party’s Ameer (president) Motiur Rahman Nizami and upheld its previous verdict on the 74-year-old for crimes against humanity during the country’s war of independence in 1971.
After the apex court dismissed the Jamaat chief’s petition, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told journalists that there is no legal bar to execute the condemned killer unless he seeks a presidential pardon.
Advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, principal counsel for both opposition leaders, said he will seek a chance to meet his client who is now behind bars to know whether he wants to seek a presidential pardon.
The death row inmate filed final review petitions with the Supreme Court on March 29 this year against its verdict that upheld their death sentences for war crimes in 1971.
The apex court on Jan. 6 upheld a death penalty for Nizami who served as agriculture and industries minister in ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia‘s 2001-2006 cabinet.
Earlier on October 29, 2014 the International Crimes Tribunal-1 handed the death penalty to Nizami who had been president of Jamaat since 2000. The tribunal ordered the hanging of Nizami on Oct 29, 2014, for the murders, rapes and mass killing of intellectuals during the War of Independence.
The apex court upheld the tribunal’s death sentences for three charges which found him guilty of aiding and abetting the Pakistani forces in the killings of almost 450 people and the raping of 30 to 40 women, in addition to orchestrating the killings of intellectuals using his vigilante milita, Al-Badr.
Nizami is among the top Jamaat leaders who have been tried in two war crimes tribunals which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina‘s Bangladesh Awami League-led government formed in 2010 to bring the perpetrators of 1971 to book.
Four Jamaat leaders and one opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader have already been executed for war crimes.
In protest against the verdict, Jamaat on Thursday called a 48-hour nationwide hartal for May 8 and 9.
In a statement, Jamaat made the announcement of the strike Thursday and once again pleaded Nizami’s innocence and said he had no link with war crimes. It also claimed that “Nizami was deprived of justice.”
But the Bangladeshi government categorically said the trial met the proper standards. Almost 40 years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010.
The Hasina government says about 3 million people were killed in the 9 month war. Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971.