Tension was building up after two magistrates visited Dhaka Central Jail on Friday morning and it ran until late night as rumours swirled and developments unfolded.
State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal’s announcement in the evening that Kamaruzzaman will get no more time to decide about seeking presidential pardon ratcheted up the tension.
Expectations went up another notch when the authorities heightened security around the prison and started making preparations for the hanging.
But around 10pm Kamal pulled the curtains on the drama for the day hinting it may take a little more time.
“There is little possibility of carrying out the execution (Friday),
The International Crimes Tribunal on May 9, 2013, sentenced Al-Badr Commander Kamaruzzaman of Mymensingh to death for his atrocities committed during the Liberation War in 1971.
The Appellate Division had also upheld the sentence describing his crimes as being “worse than the Nazis”.
Then, on last Monday, Chief Justice SK Sinha-led appellate court rejected his plea for a review of the death penalty.
After that, the Jamaat-e-Islami senior assistant secretary general’s family met him in prison on Apr 6 following a call from the jail authorities.
On Apr 8, the final verdict by the top appeals court reached the jail and was then read out to Kamaruzzaman.
Then started the wait to see whether he will seek the presidential pardon.
But confusion rose due to the ambiguity about how much time he would get to ask for pardon or the time that can be taken to settle his mercy petition, if one filed, since it is not mentioned in the International Crimes Tribunal Act.
According to the law, if a death-row convict files the mercy petition the prison authorities will send it to the president. The president will decide once the plea reaches him.
If the petition is rejected or if the convict does not seek mercy, the government order to take the steps to execute the convict.
The same procedure was followed during Jamaat Assistant Secretary General and war criminal Abdul Quader Molla’s execution. But Molla did not appeal for mercy, says the government.
He was hanged on Dec 12, 2013, the very day the Appellate Division rejected his review petition.
Kamaruzzaman had wished to consult with his counsels after the prison authorities on Apr 8 asked him whether he wanted to seek clemency.
After meeting him the following day, his lawyers said the senior leader of the Jamaat, the party that colluded with the Pakistan army and actively opposed Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, had sought time to think over the matter.
Two magistrates, Mahbub Jamil and Tanveer Ajim, on Friday morning met Kamaruzzaman in prison to ask him about his decision.
They stayed for more than an hour inside, but did not speak to journalists waiting outside the jail when they were leaving.
The prison’s Senior Superintendent Forman Ali also declined comment on their visit.
While the authorities delayed a formal announcement, social networking sites went abuzz with gossips on the possible execution.
Meanwhile, the state minister for home in the afternoon told bdnews24.com: “Kamaruzzaman was asked about the mercy petition. He is taking time. He said ‘giving…will give’.”
But the Jamaat leader would have to decide ‘fast’, he said, “We’ll make our move following the law, no matter what one says.”
His remarks somewhat dampened the excitement, but authorities reignited it by beefing up security in and around the prison in the evening.
RAB and police placed a two-layer barricade in front of the jail, which made the rumour go wild in the both news and social media.
Hordes of reporters thronged the area close to the prison gate in no time while Chawkbazar Police Station OC Azizul Haque maintained that they were only ‘following orders from senior officials’.
State Minister Kamal added fresh fuel to the fire around 8:30pm stating that Kamaruzzaman would not be allowed any more time on mercy.
“The magistrates met him today. Steps are being taken based on what they discussed.”
Asked whether the war criminal had made a decision, Kamal skirted a direct answer, only saying, “He’s not getting any more time.”
The junior home minister had spoken with journalists while leaving in a hurry a programme at Shilpakala Academy.
Earlier around 7:30pm, a rickshaw-van carrying at least eight bamboos and three large cartons went inside the prison.
An ambulance carrying a tarpaulin entered around half an hour later while at least 40 plastic chairs were also taken inside.
A prison official said bamboos and tarpaulin would be used to hide the gallows from the view of people from adjacent buildings during the hanging, a process followed during Quader Molla’s execution.
But it still was not clear whether Kamaruzzaman would be hanged as the prison authorities did not contact his family.
Kamaruzzaman’s son Hasan Iqbal around 10pm told bdnews24.com: “We’ve waited the whole day.
“We were told that authorities will talk to the lawyers if anything happens. But we haven’t got any news.”
Later, when reached for comment, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal indicated no execution was happening on Friday night.
“We’ll see what happens ,whether Kamaruzzaman would be hanged on Saturday.