Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) chief Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged tonight, becoming the senior most Islamist to be executed for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan. The 73-year-old leader of the Bangladesh's largest Islamist party had refused to seek presidential clemency.

 

Nizami was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail at 12 midnight, a police officer who witnessed the hanging told PTI.

 

"The execution has been completed," he said.

 

"Dhaka's civil surgeon then declared him dead," said the additional police commissioner Sheikh Maruf Hassan, adding that an ambulance to be escorted by police car would carry Nizami's body to his village home in northwestern Sathia for burial.

 

Dhaka's district magistrate, the inspector general of prisons and senior police officials witnessed the hanging inside the high-security prison compound.

 

Nizami's final appeal against his death sentence for war crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan was rejected by the apex court on May 5.

 

Elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion joined police to step up security around the Dhaka Central Jail in the old part of the capital. The jail guards have beefed up the security inside the facility. The street in front of the jail has also been barricaded and closed to traffic.

 

Nizami's family members, including his wife, two sons and their wives, went to the jail earlier this evening after prison officials asked them to meet him for the last time.

 

Witnesses said three cars carrying over 20 close relatives including his wife, two sons, their wives and a daughter reached the heavily guarded jail at 7.50 PM (local time) and came out at 8.40 PM (local time).

 

"We were asked by the jail officials to come to the prison as we earlier requested for the (last) meeting," one of the relatives told reporters outside the prison gate.

 

Meanwhile, several hundred people, joined by a number of 1971 veterans, staged a midnight vigil at Shahbagh Square in the central part of the capital and rejoiced the execution as soon as the news broke.