News / Asia

Bangladesh Upholds Death Sentences for Independence Leader's Killers

The last legal barrier for the execution of the five men convicted for killing the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was removed Wednesday when the supreme court dismissed an appeal for a review of their death sentences.

The Bangladesh Supreme Court has upheld death sentences for five former army officers convicted of killing the nation's independence leader in 1975.  The case has drawn to conclusion under a government led by the assassinated leader's daughter, Sheikh Hasina.   

The last legal barrier for the execution of the five men convicted for killing the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was removed Wednesday when the supreme court dismissed an appeal for a review of their death sentences. 

In November, the court had upheld a death sentence handed out to the five men by a lower court.  Lawyers say their executions are likely to be carried out in three to four weeks.

It is a case that is woven with the young nation's history.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led an independence struggle which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, following a war with Pakistan. Four years later, he was gunned down in an army coup, along with his wife and three sons.

The coup leaders escaped justice for 25 years.  The military rulers who governed the country after the killing of Mujibur Rahman granted them indemnity.

The case against them only began in 1996 when the assassinated leader's daughter, Sheikh Hasina first came to power. It slowed down again when her political rival ousted her, five years later.

The high-profile trial has finally ended, under Sheikh Hasina's second term as prime minister.  She returned to power last year.

In Dhaka, political analyst Ataus Samad says the conclusion of the politically sensitive case marks the end of a chapter for the nation and gives a message that criminals cannot escape justice.

"This case had gone through many, many obstructions, and during this time politically the country had become divided. It is very, very important for the country because it opens up an opportunity for restoration of rule of law," said Ataus Samad.    

The president has already dismissed appeals for clemency by three of the five convicted men. Lawyers say the other two are also likely to apply, but their appeal also is likely to be rejected.

Along with the five who now face execution, ten others had been found guilty and sentenced to death when the case began in 1996.  Six have fled the country, while three were acquitted on appeal.  One is believed to have died.  Sheikh Hasina's government is making efforts to extradite those who are living abroad. 

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