DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected final appeals from two opposition leaders against death sentences for atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence, rulings that are likely to spark protests by their supporters.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh has seen a rise in Islamist violence in recent months, with two foreigners and five secular writers and a publisher killed this year.
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, 67, secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was found guilty of five charges including torture and the murders of intellectuals and minority Hindus while he commanded Al Badr, a militia active in the 1971 war.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, 66, former legislator from former premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was convicted in October 2013 on charges of genocide, religious persecution, abduction and torture during the war.
The rulings mean the two could be hanged at any time.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the war in 2010, paving the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal that Islamists have denounced as part of a politically motivated campaign aimed at weakening Jamaat-e-Islami’s leadership.
Two Jamaat leaders have been executed, one in December 2013 and another in April. International human rights groups say the tribunal’s procedures fall short of international standards. The government denies the accusation.
East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh after the war between India and Pakistan, in which about three million people were killed.