Dhaka begins process for ‘war crime’ trials

February 15th, 2009 - 1:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 15 (IANS) Bangladesh has launched investigation against the chief of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), beginning the process of trial of those accused of committing “war crimes” during the 1971 liberation war.

People who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the 1971 freedom movement are called “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

The government Saturday assigned an official of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate the role of the Jamaat’s chief, Matiur Rahman Nizami, and nine others for “carrying (out a) massacre during the war of independence in 1971″, New Age said Sunday.

Nizami was industry minister (2001-06) in the Begum Khaleda Zia government. The Zia-led alliance lost badly in the last December’s parliamentary poll. Nizami himself lost his seat.

Nizami, Jamaat’s secretary general Ali Ahsan Mujahid and assistant secretary generals Abdul Kader Molla and Qamaruzzaman, along with five others are among the hundreds who have been accused of leading armed bands that killed civilians who sided with the freedom fighters.

The government has moved against them following filing of a complaint in 2007, based on investigations and collection of documents over a long period by NGOs and bodies of former freedom fighters.

Holding of “war crimes” trials is part of the manifesto of the Awami League (AL) that swept the poll.

Bangladesh’s ninth parliament last month passed a resolution asking the Sheikh Hasina government to take measures to hold trials.

Daud Hossain, 70, and Noor Anwar, 65 - one belonging to the Jamaat and the other to the BNP - were arrested in Rajshahi in western Bangladesh and remanded to police custody Saturday.

With that, Home Minister Sahara Khatun said the process of “war crime trials” had begun.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s adviser H.T. Imam Saturday said the government could take “a giant leap” in establishing rule of law in the country if the trials of war crimes were held properly.

Meanwhile, opposition is building up against the government taking any help in holding trials from the US that sided with Pakistan and had opposed the liberation war.

US assistant secretary of the state for South and Central Asian affairs Richard A. Boucher had made the offer when he called on Hasina earlier this month.

Dhaka’s academics, NGOs and politicians at a discussion Saturday termed the US offer as “a farce”.

They said the US had itself conducted “war crimes” in Iraq and Afghanistan and had held people captive at Guantanamo Bay prison.

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