Bangladesh hangs top Jamaat leader Motiur Nizami for 1971 war crimes

Nizami was hanged shortly after midnight and the body was taken to Pabna for burial.

Bangladesh executed Jamaat-e-Islami party leader Motiur Rahman Nizami on Wednesday for war crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

The top Islamic leader was hanged inside the Dhaka central jail shortly after midnight after a last-ditch appeal was turned down by the Supreme court last week.

The 73-year-old leader had refused to seek mercy from the country's president after all legal routes were exhausted.

Nizami is the fourth Jamaat party leader to have been executed since the landmark 2013 trial and conviction of dozens of former officials and Islamist party leaders for the crimes and atrocities committed during 1971.

The war crimes tribunal, which was established in 2010, has convicted more than two dozen people for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Before he was hanged, Nizami was allowed to see as many as 26 family members for close to two hours, the Daily Star said.

After the family left around 9.30 Nizami was allowed to take a shower followed by prayers. Later the jail imam administered Nizami's forgiveness prayers.

A hangmen, who arrived from the Kashimpur high security jail, put a noose around his neck and he was paraded to the gallows. He was hanged shortly after midnight and the body was taken to Pabna for burial.

Marshalled fierce militia

In January the supreme court had upheld the death penalty handed to him by the war crimes tribunal for crimes including genocide, rape and orchestration of the massacre of civilians and top intellectuals.

Nizami is a former legislator and minister under former prime minister Khaleda Zia.

He marshaled his hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party, turning it into a weapon to suppress the independence movement.

He and his allies supported the Pakistani military during the 1971 war in which East Pakistan broke away to form a new country called Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of people had died in the violence.

Nizami was long held as the force behind the lethal, pro-Pakistani Al-Badr militia, which executed the country's elite who supported independence. Thousands of people murdered in cold blood included writers, doctors and journalists and secular thinkers.

The long trial by the war tribunal and the execution of the death sentence of top Islamist leaders since 2013 had its share of backlash.

Bangladesh's hardliners openly announced they would kill secular thinkers, bloggers and atheists. More than 500 people have died in political violence triggered by the executions, while dozens of intellectuals and secular activists were murdered execution style throughout the last three years.

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the security forces were ready to deal with anyone who tries to commit sabotage. "We've been waiting for this day ... will remember this day forever," Khan said.

However, Nizami's supporters said he was denied justice. "Nizami has been deprived of justice. He's a victim of political vengeance," Jamaaat party's acting leader Maqbul Ahmad said on the party website.