Kamaruzzaman seeks time to decide on clemency option; “Decide by Thursday”, says Home State Minister

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The government has given the Muhammad Kamaruzzaman a chance to submit mercy petition. The government, in the rarest move, has also given him the chance to consult with his lawyers in this regard.  His execution was not carried out on Wednesday as he is supposed to give his decision on seeking presidential pardon today (Thursday), according to Home State Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.

The verdict of death penalty was read out to Mohammad Kamaruzzaman at 6:05 pm on Wednesday shortly after the verdict copy had reached Dhaka central jail at 5: 54 pm. Meanwhile Jail authority finished preparations to execute the death penalty. Senior Jail Superintendent Forman Ali asked him whether he wanted presidential pardon or not, a top jail official told the media.

In reply, Kamruzzaman had asked for the permission to meet his lawyers today. In keeping with his request, the jail authorities yesterday gave the Jamaat’s assistant secretary general permission to talk to his lawyers over seeking mercy petition, the last option for the convicted leader to save his life.

Once the issue of the presidential pardon is resolved or if Kamaruzzaman does not go for that option, the jail authorities will initiate steps to carry out the execution, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam had said earlier.

In common practice a death row convict can appeal to the President through the jail authorities seeking mercy for his misdeeds to save life only. The authorities do not allow a convict to consult with his lawyers.

But the authorities of the Dhaka Central Jail had granted the defence lawyers a chance to talk to Kamaruzzaman at 11:00am Thursday.

Shortly after meeting Muhammad Kamaruzzaman at Dhaka Central Jail, the defence counsel Shrishir Manir said that he (Kamaruzzaman) will take reasonable time to decide whether he will seek presidential clemency or not. Lawyers did not specify the length of the reasonable time he will take to decide.

“During the 30-minute meeting with Kamaruzzaman, he wanted to know the legal clarification about the presidential clemency option. We tried our best to let him know the pros and cons of legal matters over president’s mercy. He said he will inform the authorities concerned about his decision whether he will seek presidential clemency or not. He will think on the options, that’s why he wants to take a reasonable time to decide,” Shishir Manir briefed reporters after coming out of the Dhaka Central Jail at 11.45am.

Five defence counsels of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman entered Dhaka Central Jail at 10.35 in the morning to meet him for discussing over whether he will seek presidential mercy or not.

Led by Shishit Manir five lawyers entered the Dhaka Centre Jail around 10:30am Thursday. Muzahedul Islam Shaheen, one of the defence lawyers, told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier, the drafted verdict copy of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman was signed by chief justice and other judges on Wednesday noon. Registrar of the Supreme Court sent the signed copy of the verdict to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-2) that handed down death penalty to M Kamaruzzaman. Then, ICT-2 sent those two copies of verdict to the Dhaka Central Jail Authority and Dhaka District Magistrate.

After holding hearing on his appeal, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the tribunal’s decision on November 3 last year but commuted his death sentence to life term on one charge.

The full text of the judgement was released on February 18 and the tribunal issued the death warrant the following day.

Kamaruzzaman was convicted of war crimes during the Independence War of 1971, at which time he was a boy of 17. The family and Jamaat have both rejected the verdict as politically motivated.

On May 9, 2013, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal-2 condemned the Jamaat leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman to death for alleged war crimes including murder, abduction, torture, rape and mass killing during the Liberation War in 1971. Kamaruzzaman, a boy of 17 at the time, has maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and rejected the allegations as false and politically motivated.

He was sentenced to death on the charge of killing and rape which took place in Shohaghpur village of Nalitabari subdistrict in Sherpur district. Kamaruzzaman has maintained he never visited that village during 1971 or since, thus has no role in any crime there. Locals of Shohaghpur have denied any knowledge of Kamaruzzaman nor his involvement in any crime there. Upon investigation, villagers identified the Pakistan Army as responsible for a massacre there on June 25 1971, a day in which approximately 187 villagers were killed.

Kamaruzzaman’s lawyers had earlier added that their client had no allegations raised against him in the 40 years since the war took place, including in the many history books written and from survivors and witnesses of the war, only for allegations to be made when the ICT was formed decades later.