Bangladesh upholds tycoon’s death sentence

DHAKA: A wealthy tycoon who was a chief financier for Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami could be executed in days after losing his final appeal Tuesday against a death sentence from a controversial war crimes tribunal. 

The Supreme Court rejected Mir Quasem Ali’s last attempt to overturn the death penalty handed down two years ago by the domestic tribunal for murders committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence conflict.

“Now he has a chance to seek presidential clemency. Or else the verdict could be executed anytime whenever the state wants,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters.

Five opposition leaders including four leading Islamists have already been executed for war crimes since 2013.

They were all hanged just days after their appeals were rejected by the Supreme Court. Their families said they had refused to seek a presidential pardon as they did not want to legitimise the whole trials process.

Ali, who became a shipping and real estate tycoon, was convicted in November 2014 of a series of crimes , including the abduction and murder of a young independence fighter.

Tuesday’s decision is considered a major blow for the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which the 63-year-old Ali had helped revive by setting up charities, businesses and trusts linked to it after it was allowed to operate in the late 1970s.

His son Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, who was part of his legal defence team, was allegedly abducted by security forces earlier in August, which critics say was an attempt to sow fear and prevent protests against the imminent execution.

Security was tight in Dhaka Tuesday, even though the party has in recent months eschewed violent protests in reaction to war crimes verdicts and there was no immediate sign of unrest.

The war crimes tribunal set up by the government has divided the country, with supporters of Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) branding them a sham aimed at eliminating their leaders.

The executions and convictions of Jamaat officials plunged Bangladesh into one of its worst crises in 2013 when tens of thousands of Islamist activists clashed with police in protests that left some 500 people dead.

The JI called a nationwide strike for Wednesday, calling the charges against Ali “false” and “baseless” and accusing the government of exacting “political vengeance”. -AFP