The Turkish prime minister has condemned the execution of an opposition leader in Bangladesh, calling it a mistake that “history will not forgive.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he had a telephone conversation with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, just hours before the execution but that the Bangladeshi authorities executed Abdul Quader Mollah despite his call.
Abdul Quader Mollah, convicted of committing war crimes during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, was executed on Thursday just hours after the country's Supreme Court rejected his last-minute appeal.
Mollah's Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is barred from competing in elections but plays a key role in the opposition movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), immediately called a nationwide general strike for Sunday. However, others gathered at a major intersection in Dhaka to celebrate the execution, saying it delivered justice for crimes committed four decades ago.
Concerned over the escalation of violence and the emergence of instability in the country, Turkey had undertaken diplomatic efforts to prevent the execution of the leader.
Erdoğan urged his Bangladeshi counterpart to halt the execution on Thursday, hours after the Supreme Court had cleared the way for the execution of Mollah.
He expressed his regret over the death of Mollah to a crowd of supporters in the Aegean province of İzmir on Friday. He said there are nearly 300 cases similar to that of Mollah stemming from the independence war and spoke about the necessity of putting an end such political cases.
“I want to stress in particular that these kinds of investigations, based on emotions, should end and that everyone expects the realization of justice,” Erdoğan said.
He also called on the Bangladeshi people not to “abandon the political fight.”
“Because withdrawal means leaving the square [battle] to other powers and one needs not to tire of the struggle for democracy,” Erdoğan added.
Meanwhile, Ankara strongly condemned the execution Mollah despite international outcry against the move and said it is concerned that the execution will escalate the already high tension in the country.
Davutoğlu also spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague in an effort to prevent the execution of the opposition leader and to discuss ways to help maintain stability in Bangladesh.
Ankara issued a statement strongly condemning the execution soon after it happened.
“The execution of the death penalty sentence given to one of the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah, despite all concerns and suggestions voiced by the international community, including our prime minister, has led to a grave sadness and indignation. We harshly condemn this execution; may God have mercy upon him,” said the statement.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ offered Turkey's first reaction. He said: “Justice, human rights and the law have been trampled. History will never remember well those who executed Mollah or had the chance to prevent his execution but did not, just as how Turkey does not remember well those who executed former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, former Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and former Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan [who were executed following the May 27, 1960 military coup].”
Recalling a letter sent by Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman, Ankara's statement said that Turkey made all diplomatic efforts at the international level to prevent the execution. Last year, Gül had sent a letter to Rahman asking for “clemency” for the five defendants charged with war crimes, including Mollah, at Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for the “sake of peace in society.”
“Turkey believes that wounds of the past cannot be healed and social consensus cannot be reached this way. We are concerned that the execution of the penalty and continuation of actions with this mentality will lead to further escalation of the tension in Bangladesh,” added Ankara's statement, saying that Turkey will continue to support the people of Bangladesh and wishes for a peaceful end to these critical times in their country.
Mollah's execution was the first ordered by the special tribunal formed by Prime Minister Hasina in 2010 to judge cases of people suspected of crimes committed during the war of independence.