Kamaruzzaman seeks time to 'think about' mercy petition
With differing views coming in over how much time a war criminal would get to ask for presidential clemency, death-row convict Muhammad Kamaruzzaman yesterday said he would decide on the matter “after giving it more thought”.
State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan, talking to reporters at his secretariat office yesterday afternoon, said Kamaruzzaman must decide by yesterday (Thursday) if he would plead for his life. He also said a magistrate would be sent to the Jamaat leader “after a short while” to know about his decision.
However, late at night, the minister claimed he did not say Kamaruzzaman must decide about the clemency by yesterday.
“I told that a magistrate would go today [yesterday] and ask him [Kamaruzzaman] whether he would seek presidential clemency. If he seeks mercy, an arrangement would be made. If he doesn't, there would be another arrangement,” he told BBC Bangla Service.
He added that he did not know whether the magistrate went to the jail.
The magistrate did not go to the jail as of 8:00pm, said police sources. Despite repeated attempts, the jail authorities could not be reached for an update.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said the convict would be given “a few hours” to decide about asking for mercy.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, on the other hand, said the convict would have to be given “a reasonable time” for this.
The defence lawyers of the convicted Jamaat leader too said their client should be given reasonable time to think about the matter. Moreover, they said, the jail authorities had not set any time for him to seek mercy when they told him about the Appellate Division upholding his death penalty.
The jail authorities were also silent about their next steps regarding Kamaruzzaman's execution.
The execution of the Jamaat assistant secretary general has been the talk of the country for the last four days. Many, especially those from Sherpur, where he committed crimes against humanity in 1971, expressed dissatisfaction over the “delay” in his execution.
Kamaruzzaman, a key organiser of infamous Al-Badr force in greater Mymensingh, was sentenced to death by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 in May 2013, for war crimes, including mass killings in Sohagpur of Sherpur.
The SC upheld the death sentence awarded to him for the mass killing in Sohagpur. But the convict sought review of the judgment which was rejected on Monday by a four-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.
Yesterday, five counsels for Kamaruzzaman met him in Dhaka Central Jail around 11:00am as fixed by the prison authorities since the convict on Wednesday wanted to meet his lawyers to decide on the presidential clemency.
Coming out of the jail, Shishir Manir, one of the lawyers, said their client wanted to know about the provisions of relevant laws over seeking clemency and informed them that he would decide after giving it more thought.
Asked how long Kamaruzzaman might take, Manir said though there is no specific timeframe to seek mercy, his client should be given a reasonable amount of time as the matter involves his life.
As per the jail code, a convict gets a week to ask for presidential mercy after the jail authorities communicate the death warrant to him or her. The death-row inmate is executed between 21 days and 28 days after receiving the SC order.
The law minister, the attorney general and the defence lawyer said this provision would not be applicable for Kamaruzzaman following an SC verdict on the review petition of Abdul Quader Mollah, an executed war criminal.
The law minister told The Daily Star in the afternoon that Kamaruzzaman would be given a few hours to seek mercy.
As per the SC judgment on the review petition of Abdul Quader Mollah, it is clear that the provisions of the Jail Code would not be applicable regarding execution of a war criminal, he said.
Asked when the death sentence would be carried out, he said, “The home ministry knows it very well. Contact them.”
The Daily Star could not get in touch with the state minister for home for his comment last night despite several attempts.
Meanwhile, the attorney general told reporters at his office, “The reasonable amount of time does not mean seven days.
“The reasonable time might be the period that needs to write a mercy petition to the president.”
The AG said Kamaruzzaman would be executed as per the direction of the government under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973. Section-20(3) of the act says: “The sentence awarded under this act shall be carried out in accordance with the orders of the government.”
Contacted, Farman Ali, senior superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail, said, “It is a sensitive issue. I would not say anything.”