By Mainul Islam Khan
DHAKA (AA) – Authorities in Dhaka have formally rejected a request to review the case of Motiur Rahman Nizami, the leader of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami group who was convicted earlier of committing wartime atrocities.
Nizami now faces imminent execution unless he is granted a presidential pardon.
On Sunday, the country’s Supreme Court released its final verdict, condemning Nizami, 73, to death for murder, rape, looting and collaborating with the Pakistani army during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.
On the same day, he was brought to Dhaka’s central prison, where executions generally take place.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Monday that Nizami’s execution could only be halted by a pardon granted by Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid.
In October of 2014, Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal -- a domestic court -- sentenced Nizami to death for atrocities committed during the 1971 conflict.
During the war, Nizami had been the commander of the Al-Badr militia, which had supported the Pakistani army.
According to official Bangladeshi statistics, as many as 3 million people were killed by the Pakistani army and its local allies during the conflict.
In January, following an appeal hearing, the appellate bench of Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty against Nizami handed down earlier by the tribunal.
Last Thursday, the same bench rejected a request lodged by Nizami to have his sentence reviewed.
Following the move, the Jamaat-e-Islami group -- which Nizami has led since 2001 -- organized a three-day protest, including a nationwide strike on May 8.
Abdul Qader Molla, another Jamaat leader found guilty by the same tribunal, was executed in December of 2013, and group leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman was hanged in April of last year.
Jamaat Secretary-General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid -- along with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury -- was executed last November.
The Bangladesh government established the war crimes tribunal in 2009 to investigate individuals suspected of having committed atrocities during the 1971 conflict.
Tribunal prosecutors have since charged nine Jamaat-e-Islami leaders -- including Nizami -- and two Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders with having committed wartime atrocities.
Opposition parties and international organizations, however, have criticized the tribunal, with Human Rights Watch expressing concern over whether the accused received fair trials.
Last Thursday, Jamaat-e-Islami acting chief Maqbul Ahmed and group Secretary-General Shafiqur Rahman issued a joint statement condemning the sentence passed against Nizami.
"The government has filed [a] false case against Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami in line with the so-called allegation of crimes against humanity in a bid to make Jamaat-e-Islami a leaderless party," they asserted.
"The allegations which have been raised against him are completely baseless, false, concocted and fictitious," they added.