Bangladesh on Sunday executed two top opposition leaders for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan; hours after President Abdul Hamid rejected their mercy petitions.
Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary-General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, 67, and BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, 66, were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail at 12.45 AM, a senior jail official who witnessed the execution said.
Jail sources said a seven-member team of hangmen comprising prison inmates carried out the executions.
President Hamid rejected their mercy petitions last evening, hours after they had sought presidential clemency in a last-ditch attempt to escape the gallows. The two men were the first war crimes convicts to seek presidential clemency.
However, family members have dismissed reports that the men had made any such appeals, which would have also required admissions of guilt.
Soon after the execution, ambulances escorted by elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and armed police came out of the prison complex carrying the bodies.
Sources close to the two leaders’ families said Chowdhury would be buried at his village home in Rauzan’s Gohira village in Chittagong while Mojahid would be buried at his village home at Poshchim Khabashpur in Faridpur.
Jamaat, whose two other senior leaders already have been executed on war crimes charges, issued a statement calling for a nationwide general strike tomorrow.
Mujaheed, the second most senior member of Jamaat, was found to be a key mastermind of the massacre of the country’s top intelligentsia just ahead of the December 16, 1971 independence war victory.
Chowdhury, a top aide to BNP chief Khaleda Zia, carried out atrocities at his home district of southeastern Chittagong, leading a violent campaign against Hindus. He has been an influential politician – he was elected MP six times.
Bangladesh is on high alert and paramilitary border guards, RAB and police have beefed up the security.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentences against Chowdhury and Mujahid, who were convicted in 2013 on charges including genocide, rape and torture.
After news of their execution broke, supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League took to the streets to celebrate and also unfurled national flags near the prison.
There are fears that the executions could spark fresh unrest in the nation, which is reeling from a string of killings of secular bloggers as well as the murders of two foreigners in recent months.