The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] on Wednesday began the country's first trial against a suspect accused of war crimes related to the 1971 War of Independence [Global Security backgrounder]. Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 71, is a senior leader of the Islamist group Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] accused of genocide, killing more than 50 people, torching villages, rape, looting and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. Shortly after the court opened for trial, the proceedings were adjourned [AFP report] until August 18 by Judge Nizamul Huq, who granted the defendant's request for more time to review documents provided by the prosecution.
Prosecutors filed charges [JURIST report] against Sayedee in July after completing an investigation into crimes allegedly committed 40 years ago. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] praised recent reforms [press release] to the ICTB but urged it to do more to ensure fair trials. In July 2010, the ICTB issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the leaders of JI, including Sayedee, for alleged crimes committed during the Liberation War. The ICTB was established in March 2010 [JURIST report] to try those accused of committing war crimes during the 1971 war, in which Bangladeshi forces succeeded in gaining independence from Pakistan. In March 2008, hundreds of Bangladesh veterans who took part in the war called for war crimes trials [JURIST report] against those Bangladeshis who assisted Pakistani forces in the war during which around three million people were killed, according to government records. Bangladesh has never held trials for war crimes as earlier governments have said that trials would harm national unity.