(AA) – A presidential pardon is now all that can stay the execution of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, a Bangladeshi politician sentenced to death for alleged war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence.
Kamaruzzaman, a leader in the Jamaat-e-Islami party, had his petition for a trial review rejected by the Supreme Court on Monday, the final step in the judicial process after a court upheld his death sentence in December 2014.
In a judgment delivered in May 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal, a special domestic court established to investigate war crimes, found Kamaruzzaman guilty of five charges of crimes against humanity, including mass murder, abduction and rape.
Kamaruzzaman was, at the time of the war, a senior figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami student wing, Islami Chatra Sangha.
The party had supported union with Pakistan during the war — which according to official figures saw three million Bangladeshis killed over nine months — and allegedly had close ties to the Al-Badr militia, which supported Pakistani army operations.
According to the war crimes tribunal, Kamaruzzaman was allegedly a regional leader of the Al-Badr forces, commanding two camps and using his position as a student leader to gain recruits.
Kamaruzzaman himself has denied the charges, accusing the tribunal of being politically motivated and claiming that he had remained in his home village for the duration of the war.
His defense lawyers also challenged the charges being brought against him more than 40 years after the war and questioned why he, as an alleged collaborator, was being tried while suspects from the Pakistani army were not.
After the war, Kamaruzzaman, who was aged 20 at the time, trained as a journalist and maintained a prominent position within Jamaat-e-Islami.
He served twice as head of the student wing and as editor of the Weekly Sonar Bangla and the Daily Sangram, a newspaper closely affiliated to Jamaat-e-Islami.
Despite the charges he was found guilty of, Kamaruzzaman is considered by some to be a progressive within Jamaat-e-Islami.
In 2010, he issued a letter written from prison calling on a new party that breaks with Jamaat-e-Islami’s controversial past, with none of those accused of war crimes holding positions of leadership.
He wrote that not reforming Jamaat-e-Islami is “actually an act of foolishness and pessimism. A dynamic movement cannot take such an outdated strategy.”
“Considering the constitution of Bangladesh, we should form an organization that will not face any constitutional questions. Justice and good governance should be its motto,” he wrote.