Bangladesh hanged Islamist party leader Motiur Rahman Nizami on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday for genocide and other crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, the law minister said, a punishment that risked provoking an angry reaction from his supporters. Nizami, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was hanged at Dhaka Central jail after the Supreme Court rejected his final plea against a death sentence imposed by a special tribunal for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the war.
Nizami, 73, a former legislator and minister, was hanged at 12.01am local time, law minister Anisul Haq told Reuters. He had refused to seek presidential clemency.
A police officer who witnessed the hanging said that a civil surgeon declared him dead after the body was kept hanging for over 20 minutes.
Dhaka's district magistrate, the inspector general of prisons and senior police officials witnessed the hanging inside the high security prison compound. Nizami's family members, including his wife, two sons and their wives, went to the jail earlier this evening after prison officials asked them to go and meet him for the last time.
Hundreds of people flooded the streets of the capital to cheer the executions. "We have waited for this day for a long 45 years," said war veteran Akram Hossain. "Justice has finally been served."
But the war crimes tribunal set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 has sparked violence and drawn criticism from opposition politicians, including leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, that it is victimising Hasina's political opponents.