Two top Bangladeshi opposition leaders were set to be hanged later Saturday night for their roles in the 1971 independence war after the country’s president rejected their last-ditch clemency pleas to avoid execution
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told AFP that President Abdul Hamid turned down the pleas just hours after the two leaders sought the pardon in a bid to escape the gallows.
“The president has rejected their mercy petitions,” Khan said, adding the authorities would now prepare for the executions of the two leaders.
In a sign that the two leaders were set to be hanged within hours, prison authorities have asked the family members of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury to meet the two in Dhaka’s main jail.
“The prison authorities have called us to meet our father. Definitely, that’s the last meeting,” Ali Ahmad Mabrur, the youngest son of Mujahid, told AFP as hundreds of police could be seen surrounding the prison compound.
Hojatul Islam, a lawyer for Salahuddin Qauder Chowdhury, said the 66-year-old’s family has already arrived at the jail to meet him.
“This is the end,” he said.
As part of a century-long tradition, Bangladeshi prison authorities call family members of death-row convicts to meet them one final time hours before their execution.
Mujahid, 67, was sentenced to death for war crimes such as killing of the country’s top intellectuals. He is the second most senior member of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
Chowdhury, 66, was convicted for atrocities such as genocide during the 1971 war when the then east Pakistan split from Islamabad.
He is a six-times ex-lawmaker and a top aide to Khaleda Zia, leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
When a senior police official was asked by AFP whether the two convicted leaders were going to be hanged later Saturday night, he replied “yes” in a text message.