Bangladesh hangs two top opposition leaders for war crimes

Bangladesh on Sunday executed two top opposition leaders simultaneously for war crimes during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, triggering sporadic violence by their supporters including attacks on media.

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 12.55 AM, a senior jail official who witnessed the execution said.

President Abdul 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, their family members have dismissed reports that the men had made any such appeals, which would have also required admissions of guilt.

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The two men were “unflustered” during their execution, Detective Brach Deputy Commissioner Sheikh Nazmul Alam said.

“The duo were silent when they were being taken to the gallows. They did not react. The ropes were pulled simultaneously,” he was quoted as saying in the media.

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.

Chowdhury, a six-time MP and a former minister, was buried at the family graveyard at his ancestral home in Raujan’s Gahira Village in Chittagong after a funeral prayer.

Mujahid was buried at the premises of Ideal Cadet Madrasa — run by local Jammat activists — following a funeral prayer attended by family members and Jamaat activists at his ancestral home in Poshchim Khabashpur in Faridpur district.

Mujahid, 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 and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, carried out atrocities at his home district of southeastern Chittagong, leading a violent campaign against the Hindus.

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