Dhaka, Dec 11 (PTI) : Bangladesh’s top court today put on hold Abdul Quader Mollah’s execution which was dramatically stayed in a last-minute reprieve, as the hearing on a review petition filed by the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami leader was adjourned till tomorrow.
“The hearing is adjourned until Thursday,” Chief Justice Muzammel Hossain said at the hearing of a defence plea by the lawyers of Mollah, sentenced to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The court has put on hold the execution of the war crimes convict until further notice.
The apex court’s chamber judge Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain late last night, in a last-minute order, halted the execution of Mollah until 10:30 am (local time). Mollah’s lawyers obtained the stay order approaching the judge at his residence.
The execution of the death penalty of Mollah was stayed less than two hours before he was set to be hanged.
The stay order came as jail officials prepared to hang Mollah, 65, at one minute past midnight. The family members of the death row convict met him for the last time earlier last evening.
Mollah’s counsel rushed to Dhaka Central Jail with a copy of the stay order issued at 10:15 pm (local time).
The order was issued after Mollah’s lawyers filed a plea seeking the hearing of their petition for a review of the apex court’s judgement that handed down the death penalty to the Jammat leader.
Chief Justice Mohammad Muzammel Hossain earlier today told the defence lawyers to “cooperate with the court”.
“You are a senior lawyer, you know the law…you should cooperate with us,” he told chief defence counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain.
Mollah’s lawyers said they obtained the stay order last night on their petition claiming that the government took preparations to execute Mollah “without finishing all legal procedures”.
For his atrocities carried siding with Pakistani troops during the 1971 Liberation War, Mollah was dubbed as the “Butcher of Mirpur”.
The war crimes tribunal sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment on February 5. The Appellate Division revised the verdict on September 17 and raised it to death penalty.
Based on the highest court’s verdict, the tribunal issued the death warrant for Mollah.
Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, while the tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012, on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attacks on unarmed civilians, “causing commission of the horrific genocides, murders and rapes”.
Mollah, the fourth-highest Jamaat leader, was the first politician to be found guilty by the Supreme Court after it rejected an appeal to acquit him of all charges.
Mollah’s lawyers, earlier today, held a 50-minute meeting with the death row convict inside Dhaka central Jail, and said their client was “mentally sound”.
They said Mollah asked them to file a review petition with the Supreme Court seeking the revision of its verdict.
Two magistrates met Mollah on Sunday to know his decision about seeking the clemency but “he remained silent” despite their repeated queries, the Samokal newspaper reported.
State minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku said the time for executing the death penalty was set as Mollah “declined to seek the presidential clemency”.
Meanwhile, violence gripped parts of Bangladesh overnight killing at least five people as activists of Jamaat and its student wing Islamic Chhatra Shibir clashed with police and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). They set ablaze a number of vehicles including police vans.
Suspected Jamaat activists attacked the village home of Supreme Court judge SK Sinha at northeaster Sunamganj, setting it on fire.
The activists killed a woman and her minor daughter, throwing petrol bombs at a covered van in suburban Gazipur at the outskirts of the capital.
Among the dead was a local leader of ruling Awami League, who was hacked to death in southwestern Satkhira, where fierce clashes took place between Jamaat activists and BGB troops.
At left 15 people were injured in the neighbouring Khulna district and three of them were said to be in a critical condition.
Earlier last evening, Jamaat issued a statement warning of “dire consequences” if their assistant secretary general was executed, calling the trial a “conspiracy to kill him” while Mollah’s son said his father was being killed without “giving the due time”.
“If the government executes this conspiracy, the consequences will be deadly,” the Jamaat statement said.
Authorities enforced a stern security vigil around the jail complex mobilising police in riot gears and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops were also called out to guard the capital and other major cities and pockets known to be Jamaat stronghold.
Two war crimes tribunals are trying the high profile accused of “crimes against humanity” during the 1971 Liberation War, mostly belonging to Jamaat, which was opposed to the country’s 1971 independence war.
The two special tribunals so far have delivered verdicts in nine cases handing down capital punishment to six but no death sentence has been executed so far.