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Bangladesh president rejects war criminals' clemency request

Bangladesh's president has refused to pardon two opposition leaders who were sentenced to death for committing war crimes during Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971. They can now be executed at any time.

Opposition leaders Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid (pictured above) and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's petition for a pardon was rejected by President Abdul Hamid.

The two had

appealed for a presidential pardon

after the country's Supreme Court rejected final appeals by the two convicts for atrocities committed during Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Earlier, they had submitted two petitions to the Ministry of Home Affairs through the jail authority, Law Minister Anisul Haq told reporters.

Meanwhile, security was beefed up across the country in anticipation of unrest in response to the executions. Around 2,000 soldiers of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), a paramilitary force, were patrolling the city streets. Roads to and from Dhaka Central Jail, where the two convicts will be executed, had been shut down, media reports said.

Executions for crimes in 1971

Mujahid and Chowdhury were convicted of genocide, torture and crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's (formerly East Pakistan) struggle to break away from Pakistan.

Mujahid was the country's social welfare minister from 2001 to 2006, when Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was prime minister. In 2013, a special tribunal for the 1971 war crimes found Mujahid guilty on four counts, including torture and murder of intellectuals and minority Hindus during his command of the Al Badr, a special force of the Pakistani army. Chowdhury, also a leader in Khaleda Zia's BNP, was

sentenced to death

after being found guilty on nine counts.

The government in Dhaka has already executed two leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Kader Mollah and Muhammad Qamaruzzaman in the last two years, after they were found guilty of committing war crimes by the tribunal. The court was set up in 2010 after an earlier attempt to prosecute the criminals was stalled following the 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father.

mg/gsw (Reuters, dpa)

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