Bangladesh has hanged Islamist opposition leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war for independence with Pakistan.
A senior prison official, Forman Ali, told reporters Saturday outside the central jail in the capital, Dhaka, that the execution was carried out at 10:30 p.m. local time.
A tribunal convicted Kamaruzzaman, an assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, in 2013 for playing a key role in setting up militia groups that killed thousands of people during the 1971 war. Bangladesh executed another Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general, Abdul Quader Mollah, in December 2013 for similar crimes, triggering violent protests.
Jamaat-e-Islami, which is Bangladesh's largest Islamist political party, denounced Saturday's execution and called for a nationwide general strike Monday to protest the government's action.
Hundreds of people who supported the trial and execution rallied in Dhaka. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities and towns.
"We are happy that justice has been delivered finally,'' said Mohammad Al Masum, a student at Dhaka University, who joined a procession in Shabagh Square. "I did not see the war, but I am sure the families that lost their dear ones will be happy today.''
Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the war crimes tribunals in 2010, more than a dozen people have been convicted, mostly senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami. The party, which is allied with Hasina's main opposition rival, says the trials are politically motivated.
The initial trials that followed Bangladesh's independence four decades ago were halted after the assassination of then-President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — Hasina's father — and most of his family members in a 1975 military coup. Hasina revived the process, making good on a pledge she made before the 2008 elections.
The trials have further polarized Bangladesh, already gripped by long-running political divisions that often spill into violence.
In the wake of Saturday's execution, the Border Guard Bangladesh paramilitary force has been deployed across the country to stem any sign of protest.
Bangladesh blames Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of 3 million people during the nine-month war seeking independence from Pakistan.
An estimated 200,000 women were raped, and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India.
Some information for this report came from AP.