DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the death sentence for five convicted killers of the nation’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, setting the stage for their execution.
The court dismissed the men’s final attempt to challenge their sentences for assassinating Mujib, as he was widely known, in 1975.
“The Supreme Court, headed by the country’s chief justice, has dismissed their final appeals,” Syed Anisul Haque, chief counsel for the state, told AFP.
The five former army officers could be hanged “at any moment”, he added.
Mujib led Bangladesh to independence in 1971 during a bloody war against Pakistan.
He was gunned down at his home, along with his wife and three sons, in a coup on August 15, 1975. His daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was abroad at the time.
A total of 20 people, including domestic staff, were killed when army officers stormed his house, but the murder charges that were brought only related to Mujib’s death.
“It is a landmark verdict and we think this will go a long way towards establishing the rule of law in the country,” Haque said.
The case was first heard in 1996 when Hasina became premier for the first time and removed a legal barrier enacted by the post-Mujib government to protect the accused officers.
At that time, 15 men were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Three were acquitted in 2001. Of the remaining 12, five appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, six are in hiding and one is believed to have died in Zimbabwe.
“We will decide on the date for the execution as soon as we receive a copy of the Supreme Court order,” said additional inspector general of prisons Syed Iftekher Uddin.
The appeal argued that Mujib’s death was part of a mutiny and the defendants should therefore have been tried under martial law instead of through the civilian court system.