Bangladesh Set to Execute Opposition Leader

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Authorities in Bangladesh said Tuesday they were ready to execute a leader of the country's largest Islamic party who was convicted of war crimes.

Inspector General of Prisons Mainuddin Khandaker said Abdul Quader Mollah of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party would be hanged shortly after midnight at Dhaka's Central Jail.

Mollah's family met him at the jail on Tuesday evening.

"God willing, we will execute him at one minute past midnight," Khandaker told The Associated Press. "We are ready."

Extra police were stationed in the capital, and paramilitary guards were on standby across the country in an attempt to head off violence.

Deadly clashes have followed court verdicts against six other current and former officials of the Islamic party, an ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

It would be the first execution in special trials begun by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 of suspects accused of crimes during the nation's war of independence against Pakistan in 1971.

The government says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war.

Mollah's party and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials are politically motivated in an attempt to weaken the opposition. International human rights groups have raised questions about the impartiality of the tribunal. Authorities have denied the allegations.

On Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the government to halt Mollah's execution.

Mollah was found guilty by the special tribunal in February and sentenced to life in prison. The Supreme Court increased the penalty to a death sentence in September, triggering deadly clashes and a nationwide general strike.

Junior Law Minister Quamrul islam said prison authorities read the death warrant to Mollah on Tuesday afternoon and asked him if he wished to seek presidential clemency.

"But he did not seek that," Islam said.

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