(Reuters) - Bangladesh executed five convicted killers of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at a Dhaka prison on Wednesday night, officials at the prison said.
Earlier, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court rejected appeals by the five men, removing the last legal barrier to their execution.
Mujibur, or Mujib as he was popularly known, was Bangladesh’s first president. He was killed with most of his family in a 1975 army revolt that ended the South Asian country’s first spell of democracy and set the stage for decades of military rule.
Here are key facts about the case:
* Mujib was killed in a revolt by young army officers on August 15, 1975. The exact cause of the revolt was never established in the ensuing political turmoil. Many in the country believe the rebels opposed what they called Mujib’s authoritarian style and his attempts to set up one-party rule.
* The government installed after the revolt issued an ordinance in November 1975 granting immunity to the killers. Many who participated in the putsch were assigned abroad to diplomatic jobs by military rulers presidents Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad.
* Some political analysts and historians say the leaders were motivated by sympathy with those who had dislodged Mujib and his party, and tried to forge unity among anti-Mujib forces, including opponents of Bangladesh independence from Pakistan. Zia and Ershad also wanted to protect their own positions from coups.
* Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina was elected prime minister in 1996 and vowed to put her father’s killers on trial. Her government revoked the indemnity ordinance in 1996 and cleared the way for a trial of the assassins and coup leaders, beginning with a police complaint identifying 20 accused.
* In 1998 a Dhaka judge handed down death sentences on 15 of the 20 accused, of whom only four were in custody. They appealed in the High Court against the verdict, the first of a series of appeals. Three convictions were eventually thrown out, but not for the four in custody.
* Another of those convicted was jailed after being extradited from the United States in June 2008, subsequently joining in the appeals.
* Between repeated appeals and governments less interested in the case than Hasina, who was out of power from 2001 until early 2009, those convicted remained in prison.
* After lengthy hearings, the Supreme Court in November 2009 upheld the sentences on the five as well as six others still at large and believed to be outside the country. Another whose death sentence was upheld died abroad.
* Yet more appeals reached the end of the judicial process with the Supreme Court decision this month. Under Bangladeshi law the death sentences must be carried out within three or four weeks of that decision, unless the president grants clemency.
* President Zillur Rahman rejected clemency appeals by the convicted men.
* There are fears the executions could spark protests or violence because groups in the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami are anti-Mujib, and some argue the push for executions so long after the fact is politically motivated. Authorities are worried that anti-Mujib forces may resort to subversion or violence in collusion with Islamist militants opposed to Hasina.
Reporting by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Jerry Norton