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Bangladesh war crime suspects demand retrial

December 24, 2012


Judge Nizamul Huq presides over the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which was created in 2010 to try war crimes suspects. The tribunal has been widely criticised as being a political tool for the ruling Awami League government to target its opponents.—AP Photo

DHAKA: Leaders from the Bangladeshi opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party demanded a retrial Monday for war crimes, including genocide, saying a leaked transcript of phone calls showed the trial judge had come under pressure to deliver a quick verdict.

Lawyers representing Motiur Rahman Nizami, who is head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Ghulam Azam and Delawar Hossain Sayedee had filed petitions before a court in Dhaka, defence lawyer Tanvir Ahmed said.

“The court started hearing two petitions today,” he told AFP.

Eleven suspects who are either members of Jamaat and or the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are accused of committing crimes such as murder, rape and religious persecution during the 1971 war against Pakistan.

Both Jamaat and BNP have called the trial process, which began in December 2010, “politically motivated”.

The push for a retrial comes after a pro-opposition daily published excerpts from a series of phone calls that the presiding judge held via Skype with a Brussels-based legal expert, prompting the judge to resign on December 11.

The excerpts showed that Nizamul Huq was not only under pressure from the government to deliver a quick verdict but that he also took advice from the expert on how to word the charges against the defendants.

In his demand for a retrial, another defence lawyer Moudud Ahmed said Huq’s comments had “contaminated the whole process”.

The court has since banned publication of the phone transcripts, parts of which are now available on YouTube. A prosecutor has also sued the editor of the newspaper, accusing him of sedition and cyber crimes.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which was formerly called East Pakistan, won its independence from then-West Pakistan after a nine-month long struggle in 1971.

The current government claims up to three million people were killed in the war, many murdered by locals collaborating with Pakistani forces. Pakistan has disputed the allegations.