The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on Tuesday upheld the death sentences of two top opposition leaders convicted for war crimes committed during 1971 independence war against Pakistan, setting the stage of their execution.
The four-member bench led by chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha turned down the review petitions of Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.
Mujahid, 67, and Chowdhury, 66, were ministers in ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's BNP-led coalition government with the key partner being the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.
It was revealed in investigations that Mujahid, the second most senior member of Jamaat, was a key mastermind of the massacre of the country's top intelligentsia just ahead of the 16 December, 1971 independence war victory.
BNP top aide, Chowdhury, carried out atrocities particularly at his home district of southeastern Chittagong, which led to violence against the Hindus.
Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal sentenced the two to death in separate cases of crimes against humanity in 2013. They were convicted on several charges, including genocide and rape during the war. The apex court had upheld the death penalty to Mujahid in June and to Chowdhury in July this year.
The Bangladesh Supreme Court has upheld the death sentences of two opposition leaders convicted for war crimes committed during the country's 1971 Liberation War.
One of them is Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, the present secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, who was chief of the dreaded Al Bard killing squad that annihilated scores of Bengali intellectuals in 1971.
With the verdict delivered yesterday, the two convicted leaders have the last option of seeking presidential clemency. ''There are no legal hurdles to execute the war criminals now,'' attorney general Mahbubey Alam told reporters after the verdict.
Chowdhury, who was then a young leader opposed to Bangladesh's freedom from Pakistan, filed the review petition at the apex court seeking acquittal on all the charges.
The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) issued death warrant against him on 1 October, a day after the Supreme Court released its full verdict of the appeal hearing.
Chowdhury was found to be guilty of nine of the 23 charges brought against him, including crimes against humanity.
He was awarded the death penalty for four charges - involvement in the killings of Natun Chandra Singha, a reputed herbal medicine practitioner, pro-independence leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son; and genocide in his village Raozan of Chittagong.