Mojaeed walked separate gallows; jail authorities go for quick execution after president rejects clemency petitions of war criminals
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed were hanged early today for committing crimes against humanity during the country’s Liberation War.
The two walked the gallows around 12:55am together at Dhaka Central Jail amid tight security, Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin, inspector general (prisons), told The Daily Star.
The death sentences of Salauddin and Mojaheed, both former ministers, were executed three days after the Supreme Court dismissed his petition to review his capital punishment, originally handed down by two war crimes tribunal in 2013.
Salauddin, self-proclaimed brigadier of Chittagong in 1971, was not involved in politics in 1971, but he actively took part in the election campaign of his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, the then president of anti-liberation Convention Muslim League in 17970.
During the war, Salauddin, along with his men and Pakistani occupation forces, unleashed a cold-blooded savagery on five Raozan villages in Chittagong, killing 111 Hindu men. His father and he blamed the Hindu men for his father’s defeat in 1970.
Salauddin did not even spare Nutan Chandra Sinha, a social worker and philanthropist. He and his men killed Nutan, dragging him out of a temple where he was praying at the time. He also accompanied the Pakistan army men when the abducted Awami League leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son, who were later found dead.
Turing their Goods Hill house as a torture centre, Salauddin and his men tortured freedom fighters and pro-liberation people during the war.
After the war, he fled to London, but returned in 1974. Like Mojaheed, he joined politics after 1975 political changeover and became lawmakers several times. He even became a minister during the Ershad regime.
Mojaheed was the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing towards the last part of 1971 and became chief of infamous Al-Badr Bahini.
During the nine-month war, being the chief of the Chhatra Sangha and Al-Badr, Mojaheed visited many districts and held meetings with his followers to instigate them in annihilating freedom fighters as well as pro-liberation people.
And towards the end of the Liberation War, Al-Badr men, under his leadership, traced houses, systematically rounded up, tortured and brutally killed the brightest luminaries — professors, litterateurs, journalists and doctors — to cripple the country intellectually once and for all.
After independence, Mojaheed went into hiding and resurfaced after the political changeover in the country with the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In time, his political clout grew, and he even became minister of the country whose birth he whole-heartedly opposed and tried to resist.
Their executions came after the president turned down the mercy petitions by both the convicts.
Around 8:30pm, the jail authorities called family members of the two to meet the Salauddin and Mojaheed. The family members went to the Dhaka Central Jail around 9:15pm, lawyers for both the convicts said.
Earlier in the afternoon, the two sought presidential mercy, the last option to avoid gallows, through the jail authorities who in turn sent the petitions to the home ministry.
From the home ministry, the petitions were forwarded to the law ministry and then to the president through the Prime Minister’s Office, sources said.
Security was tight throughout the day around the Dhaka Central Jail where the two convicts were kept, and it was further beefed up in the evening when additional police and Rab and members were deployed.
All shops and establishments around the jail area were ordered to shut down by 8:00pm and onlookers were asked to clear the area. The road leading to the prison from Chawkbazar was closed around 7:40pm. Only journalists were allowed to pass through the area to go near the jail gate, that too after verifying their ID cards.
The countdown of their execution began after the Supreme Court dismissed their review petitions on Wednesday. Family members of both the death-row convicts met them at Dhaka Central Jail the following day.
Since yesterday morning, there were unconfirmed reports about their possible execution last night. There was also confusion as to whether they sought presidential mercy.
Around 10:00am, two executive magistrates went inside the jail to know whether Salauddin and Mojaheed would seek mercy from President Abdul Hamid.
Families of both the convicts held separate press conference where they expressed doubt that the two sought clemency.
At the press conference at Supreme Court Bar Association auditorium around 12:00noon, Mojaheed’s family members indirectly requested the president to halt the execution until the end of the trial of August 21 grenade attack case, in which the Jamaat leader is an accused.
Salauddin’s family members said he would convey his decision on seeking presidential clemency only when he meets his lawyers.
Later around 2:45pm, Law Minster Anisul Huq confirmed that the two indeed sought presidential mercy.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal also confirmed that both Mojaheed and Salauddin conveyed their decision to seek mercy in front of the two magistrates.
The mercy petitions reached his desk around 2:30pm, the minister told this newspaper around 5:00pm.
He said the petitions, labelled “Appeal for mercy” on top, were then being sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.
But Hummam Quader Chowdhury, Salauddin’s son, told reporters he was not allowed to meet his father at the jail. “We don’t know yet if he filed any mercy petition.”
“We don’t believe that our father sought mercy,” said Fazlul Quader Fayaz, his other son. Mojaheed’s son Ali Ahmed Mabrur said the same.
Salauddin’s family also tried to submit a letter to the president where they highlighted the international community’s “opinion” on the trial of the BNP leader.
Jamaat-e-Islami also claimed that the reports that Mojaheed filed for presidential clemency was “absolutely untrue”.
In a statement sent to the media at 2:50pm yesterday, Jamaat acting secretary general Shafiqur Rahman called upon all concerned not to spread “confusing and dirty propaganda” before the Dhaka Central Jail authorities issued its official statement on this.
“Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed didn’t say anything regarding seeking clemency when his family visited him in jail. Family members told media that he wants to consult his lawyers about next course of action,” the statement reads.
Around 8:05pm, Law Secretary Abu Saleh Sk Md Zahirul Haque reached Bangabhaban, the office-cum-residence of the president, with the petitions.
Around 7:30pm, the law minister held a press briefing at his Gulshan residence where he asserted that the mercy pleas were filed in accordance with Article 49 of the Constitution — the section relating to the presidential clemency.