Bangladesh tight­ens se­cu­rity af­ter se­nior Is­lamist is hanged


Bangladesh tight­ened se­cu­rity na­tion­wide Sun­day af­ter a se­nior Is­lamist was hanged for war crimes dur­ing the 1971 in­de­pen­dence con­flict, a move that trig­gered anger among his op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers but cel­e­bra­tions else­where.

Po­lice said ex­tra of­fi­cers were de­ployed in the cap­i­tal and other ma­jor cities hours af­ter Mo­ham­mad Ka­maruz­za­man, the third most se­nior leader of the Ja­maat- e- Is­lami party, was ex­e­cuted in a Dhaka pri­son late on Satur­day.

The 62-year-old was only the sec­ond per­son to be hanged for war crimes fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion in 2013 by a con­tro­ver­sial tri­bunal, set up to in­ves­ti­gate atroc­i­ties dur­ing the con­flict.

“We’re alert against any bid to cre­ate an­ar­chy or vi­o­lence,” a po­lice spokesman told AFP. No ma­jor in­ci­dents had been re­ported as of early evening.

Ka­maruz­za­man lost his fi­nal ap­peal last week against a death sen­tence for car­ry­ing out a massacre at a vil­lage as head of a proPak­istan mili­tia.

Ja­maat, the largest Is­lamist party, called a na­tion­wide “prayer day” for Sun­day and a strike on Mon­day in protest at Ka­maruz­za­man’s “heinous killing.” The party branded it an act of “re­venge and pre-planned mur­der” by the secular gov­ern­ment.

The hang­ing is ex­pected to deepen a months-long po­lit­i­cal cri­sis that has seen the Is­lamists and the main op­po­si­tion party launch na­tion­wide protests to try to top­ple Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina.

But the ex­e­cu­tion is un­likely to trig­ger the wide­spread deadly vi­o­lence which fol­lowed the first war crimes ex­e­cu­tion in 2013 — also in­volv­ing an Is­lamist.

Hun­dreds of Ja­maat ac­tivists were killed that year when the party held a se­ries of na­tion­wide protests against tri­als of its lead­ers by the tri­bunal, which was es­tab­lished by Hasina’s gov­ern­ment.

Se­cu­rity forces have since rounded up thou­sands of Ja­maat sup­port­ers in a mas­sive crack­down on the un­rest.

Bangladesh went ahead with the ex­e­cu­tion de­spite last-minute pleas by the United Na­tions, the Euro­pean Union and hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions. The UN has said the trial did not meet “fair in­ter­na­tional” stan­dards.

Hun­dreds of secular ac­tivists and sup­port­ers of the tri­als gath­ered in cen­tral Dhaka on Satur­day night to cheer and flash ‘V for victory’ signs over the death of a man they called a “war butcher.”

Sup­port­ers of Hasina’s rul­ing Awami League party also cel­e­brated on Sun­day with pro­ces­sions in Dhaka and other cities and by dis­tribut­ing sweets, po­lice said.

“It’s an Eid day for us,” a sup­porter in the north­east­ern city of Syl­het told tele­vi­sion sta­tion Chan­nel 24, re­fer­ring to the ma­jor

Mus­lim fes­ti­val.

‘Fi­nally we got jus­tice’

Af­ter meet­ing his fam­ily one last time on Satur­day, Ka­maruz­za­man was taken by spe­cially trained con­victs to a makeshift gal­lows for the ex­e­cu­tion about 10:30 p.m. (1700 GMT).

His body was re­turned to his home vil­lage in the north where he was buried in a cer­e­mony at­tended by about 100 peo­ple, lo­cal po­lice chief Mazharul Karim told AFP. Scores of sup­port­ers vis­ited his gravesite on Sun­day to of­fer prayers, lo­cal on­line news por­tals said.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Ka­maruz­za­man presided over the massacre of at least 120 un­armed farm­ers who were lined up and gunned down in the north­ern vil­lage of So­hag­pur.

The 1971 war be­tween Bangladeshi na­tion­al­ists, as­sisted by In­dian troops, and Pak­istani forces led to the cre­ation of in­de­pen­dent Bangladesh from what was then East Pak­istan.

Ka­maruz­za­man’s lawyers ar­gued that he was only 19 when the nine-month war broke out and was too young to have led any mili­tia.

Three women who lost their hus­bands tes­ti­fied against Ka­maruz­za­man in one of the most emo­tive of all the war crimes tri­als.

“All 32 wid­ows who are still alive are happy the no­to­ri­ous killer has been hanged. Fi­nally we got jus­tice,” said Mo­ham­mad Jalal Ud­din, a So­hag­pur farmer who lost seven mem­bers of his ex­tended fam­ily in the killing.

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