Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, sentenced to death for their roles in Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war with Pakistan, were executed on Saturday night less than an hour apart.
- The politicians were hanged hours after president rejected mercy pleas
- The two are among more than a dozen leaders of the opposition alliance convicted by a tribunal set up by the secular government in 2010
- There are fears the latest verdicts could spark fresh unrest in the Muslim-majority nation
The executions came shortly after President Abdul Hamid rejected appeals for clemency.
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed their final legal appeals, upholding the leaders’ death sentences originally handed down by a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2013.
Mujahid, 67, is the second most senior member of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, while Chowdhury, 66, is an ex-legislator and a top aide to Khaleda Zia, leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)
The two are among more than a dozen leaders of the opposition alliance convicted by a tribunal set up by the secular government in 2010.
Chowdhury, former legislator from former premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was convicted in October 2013 on charges of genocide, religious persecution, abduction and torture during the war.
Mujahid was found guilty on five charges including torture and the murders of intellectuals and minority Hindus while he commanded Al Badr, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army, during the war to break away from Pakistan.
The convictions triggered the country’s deadliest violence since independence, with some 500 people killed, mainly in clashes between Jamaat-e-Islami activists and police.
“While we are saddened that we have lost our father by way of a motivated and predetermined trial and where the country is gagged from speaking out, we find hope in the fact that the international community recognizes the injustice and that fairness and truth shall be restored in Bangladesh,” Humam Quader Chowdhury, a son of Chowdhury, told Reuters.
“We fought for them under the law and we have been defeated in the legal fight,” defense councillor Khandker Mahbub Hossain told Reuters.
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.
BNP spokesman Asaduzzaman Ripon said: ”Salauddin has fallen victim to persecution because of his political identity, and he has been denied justice.”
There are fears the executions could spark fresh unrest in the Muslim-majority nation, which is reeling from a string of killings of secular bloggers as well as the murders of two foreigners in recent months.
Jamaat called a nationwide strike on Thursday, declaring Mujahid’s original trial “farcical” and “aimed at eliminating” the party’s leadership.
New York-based Human Rights Watch asked Bangladesh on Friday to halt the “imminent executions” of Mujahid and Chowdhury, citing “serious fair trial concerns surrounding their convictions”.
The government denies accusations of interference in the judiciary.
East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan in which about three million people were killed.