Bangladesh charges Islamic leader with 1971 war crimes

[JURIST] Bangladeshi prosecutors announced Thursday that they are charging the assistant secretary-general of the largest Islamist political party with six war crimes in the 1971 war of liberation. ATM Azharul Islam was required to report to the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) to answer charges of murder, genocide, abduction, torture, rape, looting and arson. Azharul was a member of the student party Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971, and served as the district unit president of that organization, which is sponsored by his current party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website]. Investigators told the press that they recently visited scenes of crimes [Al Jazeera report] that occurred during the revolution and collected evidence against the politician. His party has not yet published a public response or indicated their next steps.

This development comes on the heels of the conviction of one of the party's leaders on related charges. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, the party's secretary-general and Azharul's direct superior, was sentenced to death [JURIST report] on Wednesday for war crimes committed during the 1971 uprising. Earlier this week, Ghulam Azam, chief of JI in Bangladesh until 2000, was also found guilty [JURIST report] by the ICTB of five charges of planning, conspiracy, incitement, complicity and murder during the war. The ICTB began its first trial [JURIST report] in November 2011 for crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The defendant in that trial was Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh [official website, in Bengali] and one of the former leaders of JI. Earlier that month, ICTB prosecutors filed an application [JURIST report] for formal charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a former leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party [party website], who was also accused of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War. In May 2011 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] sent a letter to the Bangladesh government praising its efforts through the ICTB to prosecute war crimes, but urging the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations [JURIST report]. The ICTB was first established in 2010 [JURIST report] to handle war crime charges stemming from the 1971 war.

 

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