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Bangladesh legal expert hails start of war crimes trial

Dhaka, Sep.24 (ANI): Senior Bangladesh Supreme Court advocate Rafique-Ul Huq has hailed the beginning of the war crimes trial, but at the same time, expressed his dismay over the fact that those guilty have been able to move around freely in the country for the past four decades.

“It is unfortunate that in a country like this, which is born out of a liberation war, they could not take any action against these culprits, who are moving around Bangladesh merrily. It is after so many years that we have initiated this trial,” said Huq.

Huq said that the process of legal redressal was lengthened due to non-availability of witnesses, but hoped that the process would get quicker after passing an amendment of law relating to the trial procedure.

He added that he hoped that the trials would be concluded within the tenure of the incumbent government, which did not have much more than a year in power.

“I expect that the trial will be completed as soon as possible, and the culprits will be punished,” Huq said.

The war crimes tribunal set up in 2010, requires the wrapping up investigations of all those who were accused, as the government aims to finish their trials before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-year term ends in 2014. She took charge of office in early 2009.

A court in Bangladesh charged prominent opposition politician Moulana Delwar Hossain Saiyeedi with war crimes in the country’s 1971 war of independence.

Court officials said Saiyeedi was the first to be formally charged with war crimes, and others would be charged soon.

A former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic political party and the country’s top Islamist leader, Gholam Azam, is on trial for helping the Pakistan Army during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence when the then East Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh.

Jamaat -e-Islami and its close ally the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party allege that the tribunal hearing the case takes orders from the government.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, gained independence with India’s help in December 1971, following a nine-month war against Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and fought with the Pakistan army. They were allegedly involved in war crimes and have thousands of militant followers, including in the defence forces, analysts say.

Dozens of other Jamaat leaders, including its chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid are already in prison accused of war crimes.

Official Bangladesh records show three million people were killed by the Pakistan Army and their local collaborators during the nine-month war that ended in December 1971. (ANI)