Authorities in Bangladesh heightened security after Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of the largest Islamist party, was executed early on Wednesday for his role in genocide and other serious crimes during independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Shortly after midnight, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Jamaat-e-Islami leader Nizami was hanged inside Dhaka central jail amid tight security at 12:10 am.
The execution came after the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty given to Nizami by a special tribunal.
The Jamaat-e-Islami condemned the execution and called a day-long general strike on Thursday but such protest calls usually do not attract any major response from people.
After the execution, an ambulance escorted by security officials carried Nizami’s body to his ancestral home in northwestern Pabna district, where he was buried in the morning, his family said.
The 73-year-old is the fifth man to be hanged for war crimes. Three senior leaders of the Jamaat and a senior leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former premier Khaleda Zia, were sent to the gallows earlier.
Pakistani soldiers aided by local collaborators killed three million people, raped 200,000 women and forced some 10 million to flee the country during the nine months of war in then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
Nizami’s death sentence was upheld for three charges - the slaying of 480 people in two separate incidents in 1971 and orchestrating the killing of intellectuals just two days before Bangladesh gained independence. He was the leader of Al Badr militia group, which was responsible for kidnapping and killing of dozens of teachers, journalists and doctors.
He fled to Pakistan when Bangladesh gained independence but returned under state patronage following the assassination of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family in a coup in 1975.
Nizami later became chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami and served as a cabinet minister when Zia was the premier during 2001-06 .
He was also sentenced to death in a separate case of smuggling 10 trucks of arms and ammunition during 2001-06. The consignment was brought to the country through a state-run jetty in Chittagong that was under his ministry. At the time, Nizami was industries minister and the consignment came to the country under state backing to be used by the Indian militant group ULFA.
Earlier on Tuesday evening, Nizami’s family members met him after he refused to seek presidential clemency, the last legal remedy available to a condemned man.