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Condemned Bangladeshi opposition leaders plead for clemency

Two Bangladeshi political leaders condemned to be executed have asked for clemency. The condemned men were convicted in tribunal criticized by rights groups as biased and flawed.

Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury,

facing execution for their roles in Bangladesh's 1971 independence war with Pakistan

have appealed for mercy to the Home Ministry, Bangladesh's Law Ministry said.

"They submitted two petitions to the Ministry of Home Affairs through the jail authority, and the ministry has now forwarded those to the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Ministry," Law Minister Anisul Huq told Reuters news agency.

The two leaders have already exhausted all legal appeals to avoid execution and their fate now rests with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, who has the power to pardon or commute death sentences.

Chowdhury, 66, is an ex-lawmaker and a top aide to Khaleda Zia, leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Mujahid, 67, is the second most senior member of Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Both are among more than a dozen leaders of the opposition alliance convicted by the tribunal, which was set up by the secular government in 2010 and

criticized by rights groups

and the United States.

Human Rights Watch said the tribunal allowed the prosecution to call 41 witnesses, while Chowdhury's defense was limited to just four witnesses. The New York-based rights group said Mujahid was sentenced to death for instigating his subordinates to commit abuses, although no subordinates testified or were identified.

Bangladesch Ausschreitungen Abdul Quader Mollah 13. Dez. 2013

A man cries after Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami party activists torched his vehicle during a clash with police in Dhaka December 13, 2013 The convictions had sparked some of the country's worst unrest since independence in 1971.

Convictions sparked violence

Previous

executions of Islamist political leaders have triggered some the country's worst violence

since independence. In recent years around 500 people have been killed, mainly in clashes between Jamaat activists and security forces.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers overseeing foreign policy described the process as "very flawed" and a means of political retribution. The State Department was less forceful but said Friday that executions should not take place until it is clear the trial process meets international standards.

Both men were convicted for crimes during Bangladesh's bloody war of secession from Pakistan in 1971. Military leaders in the west of Pakistan responded to a crushing election victory by the east-based Awami League party - then led by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father - with a bloody crackdown.

That culminated in a war with neighboring India that Pakistan lost, leading to the creation of Bangladesh from what once was East Pakistan.

jar/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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