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Shahjahan Bhuiya, hangman turned TikTok sensation, passes away in Bangladesh

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Shahjahan Bhuiya, who became notorious for executing some of Bangladesh’s most infamous criminals in exchange for a reduced sentence for his own crimes, and later gained brief fame on TikTok, died on Monday in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

The National Police announced on Tuesday that the cause of his death, which occurred in a hospital, has not yet been confirmed. Abul Kashem, Bhuiya’s landlord, reported that he took Bhuiya to the hospital on Sunday after Bhuiya experienced chest pains.

Last year, Bhuiya claimed to be 74 years old in local media, but his national identity card, provided by Kashem, indicated he was 66 at the time of his death.

Bhuiya was initially sentenced to 42 years in prison for robbery and murder in 1991. However, due to good behavior and his role in executing other prisoners, he managed to reduce his sentence by a decade, leading to his early release last year.

In his memoir, “What Life Was Like as an Executioner,” Bhuiya recounted executing 60 inmates, although prison officials corrected this number to 26. Among those he executed were individuals who had significantly impacted Bangladesh’s history, including military officers convicted of assassinating the country’s founder, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, in 1975, and Siddiqul Islam, leader of a militant Islamic group involved in the 2005 attacks.

Bhuiya also executed opposition leaders Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, convicted of war crimes during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

Bhuiya’s TikTok fame began after his release from prison. His videos often featured suggestive conversations with young women, attracting significant attention online.

Born on January 1, 1958, according to his identity card, Bhuiya hailed from a village in the Narsingdi district of central Bangladesh and had three sisters. He briefly joined the army but left after failing the training program. He later became president of the Narsingdi district branch of the Bangladesh Communist Party.

Details of his conviction for robbery and murder remain unclear, but he was released in June 2023, ten years early. Dhaka Central Jail’s jailer, Mahbubul Islam, explained that Bhuiya’s sentence was reduced due to good behavior and his role in executions, earning a two-month reduction for each prisoner he executed.

Senior prison official Suvas Kumar Ghose noted that prisoners could reduce their sentences by up to a quarter through tasks like executions. Executioners in Bangladesh, typically long-serving prisoners, receive incentives such as improved prison accommodations.

Despite Bangladesh sentencing hundreds to death annually, only a few executions are carried out each year. According to Amnesty International, around 2,400 prisoners were on death row this year.

In addition to his TikTok activities, Bhuiya ran a tea stall. His sister, Firoza Begum, mentioned that she had minimal contact with him over the years, and their other siblings had passed away.

Bhuiya expressed mixed feelings about his role as an executioner, stating he felt a bit of pity for those he executed but believed someone else would have done it if he hadn’t. After his release, he likened his newfound freedom to being “a newborn baby out of my mother’s womb,” and expressed a desire to live well.

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