Bangladesh opposition leaders to hang for war crimes after final appeals are rejected

A file picture taken on July 17, 2013 shows Secretary General of Jamaat e Islam, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid waving from a police vehicle as he is transported to the central jail after a court verdict in Dhaka. Bangladesh's highest court on November 1
A file picture taken on July 17, 2013 shows Secretary General of Jamaat e Islam, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid waving from a police vehicle as he is transported to the central jail after a court verdict in Dhaka. Bangladesh's highest court on November 18, 2015 upheld the death sentences of two opposition leaders, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, convicted for atrocities during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, Attorney General Mabubebey Alam said.PHOTO: AFP
Bangladeshi freedom fighters who fought in the 1971 war of independence holding a banner with the images of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (left) and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid (right), who were convicted of war crimes, in Dhaka on Nov 2.
Bangladeshi freedom fighters who fought in the 1971 war of independence holding a banner with the images of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (left) and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid (right), who were convicted of war crimes, in Dhaka on Nov 2.PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday (Nov 18) 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, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army, during the war to break away from Pakistan.

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. About three million people were killed.