The mercy petition of three of the five ex-Army officers, on death row for the killing of Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, have been rejected by President Zillur Rahman.
"The president has rejected their mercy petitions," a senior Bangabhaban presidential palace official said.
He said the presidential decision came immediately after the petitions of ex-lieutenant colonels A K M Mohiuddin (lancer), Mohiuddin Ahmed (artillery) and ex-major Bazlul Huda reached the presidential palace through the home ministry, law ministry and the prime minister's office last evening.
Two other convicts, ex-lieutenant colonels Syed Faruq Rahman and Sultan Shahriar Khan, are yet to file the clemency petitions.
Their lawyers said they might consider seeking presidential mercy only after they are exhausted with the last legal process for the review of the Supreme Court verdict by the apex court itself.
Despite the rejection, the apex court is set to hear the final review petitions of the death row convicts against its earlier verdict that confirmed the death penalty of 12 ex-army officers. Five of the 12 are in jail while six are on the run and one has already died abroad. Chief prosecution counsel Anisul Huq said there was no bar for Faruq and Khan to seek the presidential clemency within seven days after the exhaustion of the review process.
The prosecution lawyers, however, said the countdown has begun for the execution of the verdict as the jail code demands that death warrants be executed in between 21st and 28th day from the day it is signed.
The original trial court of the case on January 3 issued the warrants against the five condemned ex-army officers.
"The countdown process will be halted only if the review petitions by the convicts are granted by the apex court," Huq said.
The SC on December 17 signed the full judgement of the case clearing ways for the execution of 11 convicted ex-army officers for the August 15, 1971 carnage when 28 people, including most members of Sheikh Mujib's family, were killed.
Mujib's two daughters, incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived the putsch as they were abroad at that time.
A group of junior army officers had stormed the private residence of Mujib at Dhaka's Dhanmandi area in a pre-dawn swoop that also toppled his post independence Awami League government.
But the trial started only when the party under Hasina's leadership returned to power in 1996 general elections after 21 years in political wilderness and scrapped an indemnity law which was enacted by the post 1975 governments to protect the killers.
The Supreme Court in November last year upheld a High Court judgement awarding death to the convicted ex-Army officers.