Bangladesh’s highest court on Wednesday upheld the death sentences of two opposition leaders convicted for atrocities during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, Attorney General Mabubebey Alam said.
The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the final appeals of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury clears the way for them to be hanged as early as next week if the president does not grant them clemency.
“The judgements fulfilled the desire of the whole nation. There is now no legal bar to execute them,” Alam said.
Two other opposition officials on death row were swiftly hanged after their final appeals were rejected and they refused to approach the president, saying they did not recognise Hasina’s government.
Mujahid, 67, is the second most senior member of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Chowdhury, 66, is a former top aide to the leader of the main opposition party Khaleda Zia.
They are among more than a dozen leaders of the key opposition alliance convicted by a controversial war crimes tribunal set up by the secular government in 2010
The convictions have triggered the country’s deadliest violence since independence, with some 500 people killed, mainly in clashes between Jamaat activists and police.
The latest verdicts could spark fresh unrest in the Muslim-majority nation, which is reeling from a string of killings of secular bloggers as well as the murder of two foreigners in recent months.
The court ruling came as unidentified assailants shot and seriously wounded an Italian priest in the northern district of Dinajpur on Wednesday.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for that attack, but it bore the hallmarks of previous attacks on foreigners that were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.