The Supreme Court rejected Mir Quasem Ali’s final appeal to overturn the death sentence passed by a controversial war crimes tribunal two years ago for murders committed during Bangladesh’s independence conflict.
“The chief justice rejected the review. I am satisfied. The nation is relieved,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters after the verdict was handed down.
“Now he has a chance to seek presidential clemency. Or else the verdict could be executed anytime whenever the state wants,” he said.
Five opposition leaders including four leading Islamists have already been executed for war crimes since 2013. They were hanged just days after their appeals were rejected by the Supreme Court.
Most did not seek a presidential reprieve because they were thought likely to fail.
Ali, now a shipping and real estate tycoon, was convicted in November 2014 of abducting and murdering a young fighter during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
The decision is considered a major blow for the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, of which 63-year-old Ali is the chief financier.
The war crimes tribunal set up by the government has divided the country and sparked deadly protests, with supporters of Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) branding them a sham aimed at eliminating their leaders.
The government says the tribunal’s trials are needed to heal the wounds of the conflict.