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Dhaka Tribune

All eyes on the magistrate

Update : 09 Apr 2015, 07:49 PM

As of last night, no authorised officials could clarify how much time death row convict war criminal Muhammad Kamaruzzaman should be given to seek presidential mercy while contradictory and unclear statements came from the state minister for home affairs and the attorney general.

Earlier, the Appellate Division judges took two days to sign the judgement they gave on Monday upholding the death penalty of the Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

The jail authorities received the copy of the judgement on Wednesday and communicated it to the convict. On the other hand, Kamaruzzaman, a key al-Badr organiser during the 1971 Liberation War, on Wednesday and yesterday sought time to decide whether he would seek clemency or not.

State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said: “Kamaruzzaman must seek mercy by today or he will be executed.

“The Dhaka district magistrate is on the way to meet the convict to ask him whether he will seek presidential clemency. The verdict will be executed if he does not want to seek mercy,” he told reporters yesterday afternoon.

The magistrate did not go to the Dhaka Central Jail, where the convict has been kept, until 10:30pm, Senior Jail Superintendent Farman Ali said. The mobile phone of the state minister was found switched off while the inspector general of prisons did not respond despite repeated attempts on his mobile phone.

Kamaruzzaman’s lawyers met him yesterday morning. A five-member team of lawyers spoke to the convict at the jail.

“Kamaruzzaman said he needed more time to decide on the clemency matter,” Shishir Manir, one of the counsels, said. “He will communicate his decision to the jail authorities within the reasonable time.”

On Monday, Kamaruzzaman’s family members met him at the jail hours after the Appellate Division rejected the review petition against his death sentence.

As per the jail code, a convict gets a week to seek presidential mercy after the jail authorities receive the death warrant and communicate it to him.

On this, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam yesterday said Kamaruzzaman should not be given seven days to seek presidential mercy as the jail code is not applicable in war crimes cases.

He said the verdict would be executed as per the direction of the government in line with the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973.

“If he says he needs seven days, it is not reasonable. The ‘reasonable time’ should be around seven days [as mentioned in jail code],” the top law officer of the country told reporters at his office.

“If Kamaruzzaman seeks mercy, he cannot be executed until the president disposes of his mercy petition,” he added.

Kamaruzzaman is the second war crimes convict who filed a review petition with the top court. Another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla was executed on December 12, 2013. He did not seek mercy.

EU follows UN, HRW

The European Union, which advocates for abolishing capital punishment, in a statement asked the Bangladesh government to commute all death sentences.

“After the confirmation by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court of the death sentence in the case of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, the European Union reiterates its opposition to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances.”

Mentioning that capital punishment is not a deterrent against crime and makes miscarriages of justice irreversible, the EU said: “The EU has consistently called for its universal abolition.”

It suggested that the Bangladeshi authorities introduce a moratorium on executions as a first step towards definitive abolition of capital punishment.

On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Office called the government to halt execution of Kamaruzzaman.

“The trial was reportedly rife with irregularities and did not meet international fair trial standards,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “The UN opposes the use of the death penalty, even in cases where stringent fair trial standards appear to have been met and even for the most serious international crimes.”

Criticising the trial of Kamaruzzaman, New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday asked the Bangladesh government to suspend the execution and rather impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

“Bangladesh’s war crimes trials have been plagued by persistent and credible allegations of fair trial violations that require impartial judicial review,” the organisation said in a statement. 

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