Bangladeshi authorities are preparing to execute a leader of the country's largest Islamist party who was convicted of mass murder and rape during the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
Prisons chief Mainuddin Khandaker said Tuesday that 65-year-old Abdul Quader Mollah of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party would be hanged shortly after midnight at Dhaka's Central Jail.
A reporter for VOA in Dhaka said the city is extremely tense and that extra police and paramilitary guards have been deployed throughout the capital and across the country. He said Jamaat leaders warned the execution could provoke a severe backlash.
A Supreme Court ruling in September ordering Mollah's death sentence triggered deadly clashes and a nationwide strike.
Brad Adams of New York-based Human Rights Watch told VOA's Bangla Service the execution could trigger huge unrest.
"In the middle of this very volatile environment, where emotions are high, the execution would be a disaster... Even those who believe in the death penalty should understand that an execution now, in the middle of a political crisis, could lead to enormous violence and many deaths."
A domestic war crimes court had originally sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment in February, but the sentence prompted protests by tens of thousands of secular demonstrators who viewed it as too lenient.
Under pressure, the government amended the war crimes law retroactively to allow it to appeal the sentence and seek the death penalty, which the Supreme Court then handed down in September.
In a report released Sunday, HRW warned that a death sentence handed down on the basis of a retroactively amended law violates international fair trial standards.
The group and a U.N. Special Rapporteur also said Molla should be given the opportunity to appeal.
Officials said Mollah refused to seek a pardon from the country's president even when asked whether he would do so.