An opposition leader in Bangladesh who was found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s war of independence was executed Thursday amid allegations the trial was politically motivated.
Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged Thursday night in the first such execution since the government began trying suspected war criminals in the country’s bloody 1971 war for independence from Pakistan, which left hundreds of thousands dead. He was found guilty by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal of killing a student and a family of 11 as well as aiding in the murder by Pakistani troops of 369 other people, the Associated Press reports.
Mollah’s Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which previously threatened “dire consequences” if he was executed, immediately called for a general strike for Sunday. Security was tightened around the jail where Mollah was executed and throughout the capital city of Dhaka. Earlier in the day, three people were killed and 15 injured when protesters in eastern Bangladesh clashed with police.
The trials have ostensibly sought to bring justice 40 years after the brutal war, but they have inflamed tensions in the impoverished country, where Islamists say they are being used to crack down on the government’s opponents. International observers have criticized the trial process and on Tuesday the United Nations high commissioner for human rights recommended in vain that the country hold off on the execution.
The execution was placed on hold Tuesday, the initial date, but went forward after the Supreme Court rejected Mullah’s final appeal.