Quader Molla executedM Moneruzzaman, Muktadir Rashid and David Bergman
War crimes convict Abdul Quader Molla, also an assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, was hanged Thursday night at Dhaka Central Jail amid heightened security.
The jail authorities executed the 66-year-old Quader, convicted of committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, after the government ordered it to execute his death warrant without applying
the jail code. Shaikh Yusuf Harun, the deputy commissioner and district magistrate of Dhaka confirmed the execution.
Molla was executed one minute past 10:00pm after the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in a full-court hearing turned down a petition which had sought review of the court’s earlier judgment sentencing Quader Molla to death for an offence involving the killing of six members of a family at the outset of the country’s independence war.
Molla’s execution was carried out unusually early, as according to the jail code the normal time for executions was ‘the early hours.’
Doctor Rafique Ahmed, one of the three medical officers present at the gallows, said that the body was kept hanging for 30 minutes, as required by the jail code.
At 11:15pm, an ambulance with Molla’s body, escorted by police cars, left the jail and drove to his ancestral home in Faridpur for burial.
This is the first case of execution of any war crimes convict among the nine — seven sentenced to death, one to life in prison, another to 90 years in prison. Tribunal verdicts against five are still pending with the appeals court; three convicts are in hiding.
Molla’s family members complained that they were unable to accompany the body as they felt insecure. One of Molla’s sons, Hasan Jamil said that his mother, brother and four sisters would not go to Faridpur to attend the burial for security reasons ‘as we feel insecure because Awami League supporters, with the help of police, repeatedly attacked their house.’
Witnesses said a group of ruling party activists were roaming around the house at Moghbazar wielding sticks after the execution.
According to the jail code, a guard of not less than 12 men armed with approved rifles and with cartridges were gathered in front of the gallows ‘to repulse any attempts at escape’.
Jail officials present at the time said he was taken from his cell to the gallows in prison uniform.
Dr Rafique Ahmed said that Molla was calm and composed and did not utter a word when he was brought to the gallows.
The gallows was covered with pieces of black canvas so that only permitted people could see the hanging.
Molla was pinioned and hooded by five hangmen led by Shahjhan Bhuiyan who carried out the serial executions of the five convicted killers of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 28, 2010, said Dr Rafique.
Apart from Yusuf Harun, civil surgeon Abdul Malik Mridha, a representative of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner and deputy commissioner (finance) Imamul Hossain, among others, witnessed the execution.
Munir Hossain, imam of the jail mosque, administered Molla his last rites 15 hours before the execution.
Before the execution, family members of Quader Molla met him in jail around 6:15pm.
Ten people, including Molla’s wife Sanwara Jahan, son Hasan Jamil and four daughters, arrived at the jail in a white microbus and met Molla for about 30 minutes before leaving at about 7:00 pm.
According to jail warders present at the time, Sanwara and her four daughters were wailing while Molla told them, ‘I am being hanged just for political reasons.’
After coming out of the jail, Hasan Jamil told reporters that his father wanted to meet his lawyers.
Minutes before 9:00pm, Azimuddin Patwari, one of Molla’s counsels, approached the jail authorities with an application to meet Molla either during the night or in the next morning. But the jail officials at the reception refused to receive the application.
Molla’s attorney Abdur Razzaq had claimed that the death warrant could not be executed till publication of the full verdict of the Supreme Court but attorney general Mahbubey Alam said there was no need for releasing the full verdict as the court had straightaway rejected the petition without any observation.
Security was beefed up around the jail after the Appellate Division rejected the petition for a review of the death penalty earlier on the day.
On Tuesday, the government had ordered the jail authorities to execute Quader one minute past midnight but at around 10:20 that night, the Appellate Division chamber judge Syed Mahmud Hossain, stayed the execution until the next morning in response to a legal intervention by Molla’s defence lawyers.
On Thursday morning, in a packed courtroom amid tight security, a five-member Appellate Division bench comprising the same judges who had originally imposed the death sentence, rejected Quader’s petition without giving any reasons.
Supreme Court registrar AKM Shamsul Islam told New Age that he had notified the respective government authorities, including the inspector general of prisons, about the Appellate Division’s rejection of the two review petitions, and it was later reported that the order had been sent to Dhaka Central Jail.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam had told reporters around noon that the Appellate Division’s decision had cleared the way for Quader’s execution and that there could be no more legal intervention. He said that Quader might rethink whether he wanted to seek presidential mercy which he had refused when the jail authorities had twice asked him if he would do so.
Quader’s chief counsel Abdur Razzaq said he was aggrieved and thought that Molla was denied justice.
He said that Quader Molla should not be executed until the Appellate Division released the full text of its order as the apex court had dismissed his applications in just a few words.
On Wednesday, the Appellate Division bench, headed by the chief justice, Md Muzammel Hossain, had heard arguments from the Attorney General on why the applications filed under article 105 of the constitution should not be heard by the court – with Razzaq strenuously arguing that the court had the power to do so.
At the beginning of the hearing on Thursday, the court told Razzaq that he should continue as though there was no dispute on the maintainability of the review petition, and should argue on the merits of the application.
Turning to the substantive arguments in favour of the defence application, Razzaq argued that there was ‘error apparent on the face of the record’ in the way in which the Appellate Division had failed to take into account contradictory statements made by Momena Begum – the sole witness in the charge for which Molla was sentenced to death.
He argued that the rules of the International Crimes Tribunal had allowed the defence to question a witness on issues of credibility, and this included inconsistencies between evidence a witness had given in court and a statement which the same person had given to an investigation officer or to another person.
Although Momena had told the tribunal that Molla was present at the time of the murder of her family, she had not mentioned this in her statement to the investigation officer and instead named another person.
She had also given another statement to a researcher based at a 1971 museum in which she said that she was not even present at the time of the murder of her family.
The court had said in its judgment that the defence could only cross-examine a witness in relation to evidence which that person had given in her examination in chief – and not in relation to statements that they had previously given.
Razzaq also argued that Bangladesh law required that a court could only increase the sentence if it was ‘manifestly inadequate and unusually lenient’. He, however, argued that the judgment had failed to show how the sentence of life imprisonment – where ‘life meant life’ – given by the International Crimes Tribunal was so inadequate.
‘There is no finding in the judgment that the sentence was manifestly inadequate,’ he said.
At one point in the argument, the chief defence lawyer wanted to refer to the judgment of the dissenting judge, but Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah said, ‘Please do not refer me. It is a great embarrassment for me. I felt embarrassed.’
Outside of the review application, Razzaq also argued that to ‘ensure complete justice’ when deciding what orders it gave the Appellate Division should take into consideration the illegality of the warrant of execution and the application of the jail code.
In relation to the jail code, he argued that it applied to Molla and that, assuming the court were to reject the review application, he should be given 15 days to decide whether or not to seek a pardon from the president.
He said that the ICT Act stated that the sentence should ‘be carried out in accordance with the orders of the government’ and this referred to the jail code.
Razzaq also argued that the execution warrant sent to Dhaka Central Jail was ‘defective’ as it should not have been signed by the International Crimes Tribunal but by the Appellate Division which had handed down the death sentence.
On this point Justice SK Sinha said, ‘We asked the ICT to do so.’
Attorny general Mahbubey Alam gave only a short reply to the arguments, stating that it was clear that the tribunal rules only allowed limited cross-examination of a witness by the defence.
He also argued that a written statement of the investigation officer was not an ‘evidence’ as defined in the ICT rules.
The Appellate Division on September 17 sentenced Quader Molla to death on a government appeal following a judgment given by the International Crimes Tribunal on February 5 that had sentenced him to life in prison.
The five-member Appellate Division bench delivered a majority verdict of four judges to one.
The tribunal issued the death warrant after the full text of the appeal verdict had reached the tribunal from the Supreme Court on Sunday. The Supreme Court had released the full text on December 5.
The appeals court sentenced Quader to death for killing six members of the family of Momena Begum at Mirpur in Dhaka on March 26, 1971, the offence for which he had earlier been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Quader Molla along with his cohorts is said to have surrounded the house of Momena’s father Hazarat Ali Laskar, killed her parents, her minor brother and three younger sisters and raped one of them.
The tribunal verdict that was delivered on February 5 triggered a youth uprising at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka that spread across the country, with thousands demanding that he should be hanged for his crimes.
Amid such protests, the government on February 18 amended the law to allow the state to appeal against inadequacy of a tribunal sentence.
The tribunal had acquitted Quader Molla of one count, sentenced him to life in prison on two counts and to varying terms of imprisonment on three other counts.
The appeals court sentenced him to death on one of the counts for which he had earlier been jailed for life.
The chief war crimes prosecutor, Golam Arief Tipoo, on March 3 filed an appeal against the ‘inadequacy of the sentence’ of Quader on five charges and against his acquittal of the other charge.
Quader filed his appeal petition the next day seeking to be acquitted of all the charges.
On Tuesday, the government had ordered the jail authorities to execute Quader one minute past midnight.
However, at 10:20 that night, the Appellate Division chamber judge Syed Mahmud Hossain, stayed the execution until the next morning in response to a legal intervention by Molla’s defence lawyers.
A total of 23 family members met Quader after the government had decided to execute him one minute after midnight past Tuesday. Later the jail authorities suspended Quader’s execution following the Appellate Division order.
Of the petitions, one was filed for overturning the death sentence and other over legality of its judgment that had handed him death sentence reversing the tribunal’s February 5 verdict awarding him life in jail.
An ambulance carrying the body of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla comes out of the Dhaka Central Jail where he was hanged to death at 10:01pm on Thursday for war crimes. Ã¢€” Indrajit Ghosh
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