Molla’s lawyer Tajul Islam told AFP that the family of the 65-year-old former journalist had been contacted by the jail, adding to speculation that an execution was imminent.
“We got a notice from the jail authorities asking Abdul Quader Molla’s family to meet him at the Dhaka central jail at 8pm tonight,” Islam said.
New York-based activist group Human Rights Watch and a UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers have warned that the country could be breaking international law.
There are also worries the execution could trigger more violence in the restive nation, already reeling from its worst political unrest since independence ahead of a national election on January 5.
At least 224 people have died in battles between opposition protesters, police and government supporters since January this year.
“What logic do they have to stop the execution?” deputy law minister Quamrul Islam told AFP when asked about the criticism from rights experts.
“Did they stop the execution of Saddam Hussein?” he said referring to the former Iraqi dictator who was hanged in December 2006.
Molla was convicted of rape, murder and mass murder including the killing of over 350 unarmed Bengali civilians. Prosecutors described him as the “Butcher of Mirpur”, a Dhaka suburb where he committed most of the atrocities.
A domestic war crime court had originally sentenced him to life imprisonment in February, but the sentence prompted protests by tens of thousands of secular demonstrators who viewed it as too lenient.
Under pressure, the government amended the war crime law retroactively to allow it to appeal the sentence and seek the death penalty, which the Supreme Court then handed down in September.
UN expert Gabriela Knaul argued that any death sentence had to be “reviewed by a higher tribunal, as laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bangladesh is a party.”
Defence lawyers and Knaul said the Supreme Court should review its own verdict, as enshrined in the country’s constitution, which the government rejects.
Bangladeshi laws allow review of any death sentences in the Supreme Court, but prosecutors said there is no such provision in the special war crime laws, which were enacted to prosecute suspected war criminals.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the execution order was “particularly reprehensible” because the laws to hang Molla “were retroactively passed” in order to enable the death penalty, and where the right to appeal is not allowed.
A prison spokesman said Molla had been asked twice whether he would seek presidential pardon, but he had not responded.
Bangladesh regularly carries out the death sentence but it would be the most high profile execution since January 2010 when five ex-army officers were put to death over the assassination of the country’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
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