DHAKA, Sept 2: A special tribunal dealing with war crimes involving Bangladesh’s independence struggle on Monday asked an international rights group to explain why it shouldn’t be charged with contempt of court for comments it made about a recent ruling.

The tribunal ruled that Human Rights Watch must reply within three weeks or it could be charged. A person found responsible for contempt could face one year in jail and be ordered to pay 5,000 takas ($63).

Last month, the New York-based group issued a statement saying the trial of a former leader of an Islamist party, Ghulam Azam, was “deeply flawed” and did not meet international standards.

The statement also alleged the “judges had improperly conducted an investigation on behalf of the prosecution” and mentioned “collusion and bias among prosecutors and judges”.

Mr Azam was sentenced to 90 years in jail for war crimes. Both the defence and prosecution have appealed the verdict.

The maximum punishment Mr Azam could have faced was the death penalty. The tribunal found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, but said it considered his age and decided to award a jail term.

Mr Azam is 91.

The HRW’s statement prompted prosecutors to file a contempt petition last month against the group. The prosecution said the group raised “biased, baseless, utterly false, fabricated and ill-motivated” allegations involving the trial process.

US Ambassador in Bangladesh Dan Mozena expressed concern last month over the prosecutors’ move. He said an organisation like Human Rights Watch “has a critical role to play”. The petition names the group’s board of directors, its director for the Asia region, Brad Adams, and his associate Storm Tiv.

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