DHAKA: Bangladesh hanged two top opposition leaders Sunday for alleged war crimes committed during 1971 conflict with Pakistan. Authorities then boosted security across the country over fears of unrest. Opposition parties called for strike to protest against the executions of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.
Bangladesh has been roiled by violence for much of the last three years since a domestic tribunal began delivering its verdicts on opposition figures. A total of 18 people have been convicted but only two had been sent to the gallows before Mujahid and Chowdhury were hanged at Dhaka’s Central Prison shortly before 1:00am.
While the other three were members of the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Chowdhury was a senior figure in the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Jamaat, banned from contesting the 2014 general election, said the executions were part of a strategy “aimed at eliminating” its leadership.
The BNP also accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of presiding over a politically-motivated killing which was carried only hours after its leader Khaleda Zia returned from a lengthy stay in London. The 67-year-old Mujahid, Jamaat’s official number two, was sentenced for war crimes.
Chowdhury, 66, was convicted for atrocities during 1971 war when the then East Pakistan split from Islamabad. He served six terms as a member of parliament and was one of Zia’s top aides.
International rights groups have criticised the trials as unfair. Both Chowdhury and Mujahid held cabinet posts a little over a decade ago when the BNP was in power.