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Bangladesh arrests Islamist party leader for war crimes

Dhaka, Wed, 22 Aug 2012 ANI
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Dhaka, Aug. 22 (Xinhua-ANI): Bangladesh Police Wednesday arrested a top leader of an Islamist party for his alleged crimes against humanity committed during the country's war of independence in 1971.

Police arrested ATM Azharul Islam, acting secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, from his residence in capital Dhaka about an hour after the country's first war crimes court ordered the arrest of the Islamist party leader in 24 hours.The court named "The International Crimes Tribunal" issued the warrant following the prosecution's plea to arrest ATM Islam, acting secretary general of Jamaat, and ordered the police to produce him before the tribunal within 24 hours of arrest.

Charges of links with the crimes against humanity during the War of Independence in 1971 have been brought against the top leader of Jamaat, key ally of main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Soon after the court's order, members of different law enforcing agencies cordoned off his residence to arrest him.

Apart from Islam, ten leaders of Jamaat and BNP are now facing war crimes charges before the tribunals.

Bangladesh in January this year arrested Islamist leader Ghulam Azam, aged 89, on charges of masterminding war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle. After his arrest, prosecutors said Azam, the former chief of Bangladesh Jamaat, is alleged to have created and led pro-Pakistan militias which carried out numerous murders and rapes during the nine-month war.

After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010, almost forty years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan to castigate those committed crimes against humanity during the nine-month war.

But it has been plagued by criticism for targeting her political opponents from ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's BNP and its key ally Jamaat, which (Jamaat) allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani forces in 1971 to prevent an independent Bangladesh.Both BNP and Jamaat have already dismissed the court as a government "show trial" and said it is a domestic set-up with no United Nations oversight or involvement.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. Hasina's government said about three million people were killed in the war although the independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died. (Xinhua-ANI)

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