The execution of war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah has been stayed till 10:30am tomorrow following a late evening move the defence to seek review of the death penalty.
“We have handed the stay order to the jail authorities,” Abdur Razzak, Mollah’s chief counsel, told journalists in front of the main gate of Dhaka Central Jail, where the death row convict has been kept at 11:15pm.
The jail authorities were to complete some formalities in compliance with the Chamber Judge’s order, he added.
Half an hour earlier, Forman Ali, senior jail superintendent of the prisons, told The Daily Star that they came to know about the order through the media.
“We have yet to receive it in our hands,” he said, adding that the jail authorities were waiting to get the order before taking any decision.
The jail authorities were earlier set to execute Mollah at 12:01 tonight.
Chamber Judge Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order around 10:15pm as the authorities of Dhaka Central Jail completed almost all preparation to hang him at one minute past 12.
Mollah, known as Koshai (butcher) Quader for his brutal style of torture on the freedom-seeking people during the country’s 1971 Liberation War, could become the first war criminal to be hanged had the jail authorities went ahead with the plan.
Earlier, 23 family members of the death row convict, who was instrumental against the birth of Bangladesh during the 1971 War of Independence, met him for the last time.
Contacted by the jail authorities in the afternoon, they drove there in two microbuses.
“We let them in at 7:50pm for half an hour,” Ali said.
It was Mollah’s sentence — life-term imprisonment — on February 5 which triggered a youth upsurge in the capital, known popularly as Shahbagh Movement, that later spread across the country.
The ICT-2 awarded Mollah life imprisonment on two out of six charges and different jail terms on the other three proved charges.
For weeks, Shahbagh youths continued their movement to press home the demand of execution of war criminals, forcing the government to bring an amendment to the International Crimes Tribunal law, which is the basis for the special tribunal trying the accused of war crimes committed 42 years ago.
The state on March 3 appealed with the SC against the life-term ruling, terming it “inadequate” and seeking the death penalty for his wartime offences.
On September 17, a five-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain revised the verdict, sentencing Mollah to death.
After the full text of the verdict was released, ICT-2 issued death warrant for the Jamaat leader on December 8.
Tuesday afternoon, the jail authorities contacted Mollah’s family and asked them to meet with him by 8:00pm.
“We are in tension. We feel that it is not a good sign,” Advocate Tajul Islam, the convict’s counsel, said contacted by the jail authorities.
As the news spread through televisions and online newspapers, large number of curious people gathered in front of Dhaka Central Jail, most of them to celebrate at the punishment of the infamous Jamaat leader.
LATE RUSH TO STAY EXECUTION
Though Mollah did not seek president’s clemency, his lawyers rushed to Chamber Judge Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain house at Kakrail to move a petition seeking stay on the process of Mollah’s execution at 8:30pm.
Claiming that the government took preparation to execute Quader Mollah without finishing all legal procedures, Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain, Barrister Abdur Razzaq and Advocate Tajul Islam also went to the residence of Attorney General Mahbubey Alam at 9:00 but the chief law officer of the country was not at his home then.
The delegation later rushed to the chamber judge’s house again at 9:20pm.
Confirming The Daily Star about the Chamber Judge’s order, advocate Khandker Mahbubey Alam said the jail authorities cannot execute Mollah till 10:30am tomorrow.
“In the meantime, we will move a review petition on behalf of Abdul Quader Mollah before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, and which will then pass its order,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, Mollah instructed his lawyer to file a review petition with the Supreme Court challenging its verdict, Tajul said after meeting the Jamaat assistant secretary general at Dhaka Central Jail.
Tajul along with chief defence counsel Barrister Abdur Razzak and Advocate Tajul went to the jail at 10:10am and stayed there for 50 minutes.
“Mollah is mentally sound,” advocate Tajul said after the meeting.