Bangladesh has executed a tycoon and top financier for the largest Muslim party for war crimes, dealing a major blow to its ambitions in the troubled Muslim-majority country.
Mir Quasem Ali, a key leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, was hanged late on Saturday after being convicted by a controversial war crimes tribunal of murder and abduction during the 1971 independence conflict with Pakistan.
He was hanged at a high-security jail in Gazipur north of the capital. His body was taken to his ancestral village in the central district of Manikganj, flanked by police, for burial early on Sunday.
“Several dozen people, mostly family members, attended his funeral prayers,” local police chief Nazrul Islam said.
Ali is the fifth prominent Jamaat leader to have been executed for war crimes following their trials at the tribunal set up by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government in 2010.
The 63-year-old’s death is a major setback for the party, which he had helped revive by setting up charities, businesses and trusts linked to it after it was allowed to operate in the late 1970s.
Security was tight before his execution, even though the party has in recent months eschewed violent protests in reaction to war crimes verdicts and there was no immediate sign of unrest.
The tribunal has divided the country, with supporters of Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party branding the trials a sham aimed at eliminating their leaders.
About 1,000 police were deployed in Gazipur before Ali’s hanging, officials said.
Jamaat, which is banned from contesting elections, called a nationwide strike for today, saying Ali was “murdered” for playing a “key role in the Islamic movement” in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan warned the group against any “unruly” activities.
Hundreds of people in Dhaka and Chittagong late on Saturday held impromptu street celebrations as news of the execution was broadcast on television.
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