Bangladesh has hanged a prominent businessman and top financier of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party in the country over a series of alleged war crimes dating back to 1971.
Mir Quasem Ali, 63, was executed late Saturday at the Kashimpur high-security jail in Gazipur, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka.
The business mogul, who had been in custody since 2012, was convicted in November 2014 by the International Crimes Tribunal, which had been set up to investigate cases originating from Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The sentence was carried out after the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, on Tuesday rejected Ali’s final appeal against the penalty by approving the legality of the proceedings.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Ali’s last chance was to appeal to the prime minister for pardon. The businessman, however, who claimed to be innocent, declined to ask for pardon, which required for him to confess to being guilty.
The domestic war crimes tribunal has been criticized by rights organizations for its “irregular” legal proceedings.
Last week, a group of United Nations (UN) rights experts examining the proceedings demanded a moratorium on Ali’s death sentence and a retrial.
Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia director, had also said, “The execution of Mir Quasem Ali, following a trial whose fairness was questioned by the UN, will not deliver justice to the people of Bangladesh.”
Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, had said, “Allowing the death sentence in a case with such fundamental doubts about the evidence is unthinkable.”
Prosecutors said Ali had spent millions of dollars of the fortune he acquired in businesses, including shipping, banking and real estate, to hire international lobbyists to derail the war crime trials.
They said Ali was a key commander of the notorious pro-Pakistan militia in the southern port city of Chittagong during the independence war.
Meanwhile, people in Dhaka and Chittagong held impromptu street celebrations after the news of Ali’s execution was broadcast live on television.
The wealthy tycoon had been a financier and the de facto treasurer of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party, which is banned from participating in elections.
Ali was the fifth and the last prominent Jamaat-linked figure to be handed an execution sentence by the special war crimes tribunal.
The supporters of Jamaat claim the government has been eliminating their leaders.
The country is presently on high alert over fears of violence by Jamaat supporters after Ali’s execution. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has warned them against any “unruly” activities.
In 2013, Jamaat supporters staged violent protests, leaving some 500 people dead.