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Bangladesh reporter shot at funeral of executed opposition leader

AFP | An ambulance carries away the dead bodies of two Bangladeshi opposition leaders after they were executed for war crimes on November 22, 2015 at Dhaka's central jail

Bangladesh's Mohona TV station says one of its reporters was shot and wounded while covering the funeral of one of two opposition leaders executed earlier Sunday.

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Rajib Sen was covering the funeral of Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury in Chittagong district.

Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, secretary general of the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, were hanged together at Dhaka Central Jail.

The two opposition leaders were convicted of war crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war against Pakistan despite concerns that the legal proceedings against them were flawed.

Sen was rushed to a hospital in Chittagong.

Bangladesh had been bracing for upheaval ahead of the executions, with supporters of the two opposition leaders threatening violence if the hangings went ahead.

Security had been strengthened near the jail and elsewhere as the executions took place. A few hours later a security detail escorted ambulances carrying the men's bodies to their ancestral homes where their families were to perform burial rituals.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party, which had already had two other senior leaders executed for war crimes, issued a statement calling for a nationwide general strike on Monday.

Chowdhury was convicted on of charges of torture, rape and genocide during Bangladesh's independence war against Pakistan, while Mujahid was found guilty on charges of genocide, conspiracy in killing intellectuals, torture and abduction.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld their death sentences, and on Saturday, President Mohammad Abdul Hamid rejected a clemency appeal, clearing the way for the executions. The families of Chowdhury and Mujahid met them for the last time inside Dhaka Central Jail on Saturday evening, authorities said.

Political retribution

Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials were politically motivated. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied the allegations. She has acknowledged that she faced international pressure for trying opposition figures for war crimes, but vowed to continue the trials "to ensure justice for the families of the slain people" from the 1971 war.

More than 15 people, mostly leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, have been convicted of war crimes.

The party had campaigned openly against independence for Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until the 1971 war. Bangladesh's government says that Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.

Mujahid, 67, was the head of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. He was accused of being the mastermind behind the killing of intellectuals, including teachers and journalists, days before the Pakistani military surrendered to a joint force of freedom fighters and Indian army units on Dec. 16, 1971, after a bloody nine-month war.

Chowdhury, 66, whose father was the speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly and, at times, the acting president of Pakistan, also actively opposed Bangladeshi independence. He was accused of carrying out war crimes, including killing more than 200 civilians, mostly minority Hindus, during the independence war, according to evidence presented at the tribunal.

US lawmakers overseeing foreign policy described the war crimes tribunal, set up in 2013, as "very flawed" and a means of political retribution. The State Department said Friday that executions should not take place until it it's clear that the trial process meets international standards.

Human Rights Watch said the tribunal allowed the prosecution to call 41 witnesses, while Chowdhury's defense was limited to four witnesses. The New York-based group said Mujahid was sentenced to death for instigating his subordinates to commit abuses, although no subordinates testified or were identified.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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