Protests planned in US against Dhaka’s war crimes trial

Sunday, January 2, 2011

DHAKA - The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami plans to stage protests in the US, Britain and some Middle East nations against the impending trial of its top brass accused of war crimes during the 1971 freedom movement.

The party plans to use its supporters and “other like-minded organizations” in these countries, The Daily Star said Sunday.

The Jamaat has so far failed to find support among its other Islamist allies, as also the principal ally and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), for the protests planned at home.

Thanks to the “stern” approach of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinas government that is pushing for the trial, the Jamaats rank and file has begun to work under different banners and names, a report said quoting unnamed party officials.

Jamaats amir (chief) Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and four top officials are in jail accused of leading Islamist militia to target unarmed civilians, among them religious minorities, in the run-up to the movement that led to the country’s separation from Pakistan in December 1971.

There are varying estimates of killings, arson and looting during those nine months. Dhaka says three million perished during that period.

The Jamaat opposed country’s Liberation War in 1971 and many of its leaders were allegedly involved in crimes against humanity during the nine-month-long war. It was banned in 1972.

The party is assessing the consequences of the likely arrest of its former chief Golam Azam. The government has already said he would also be brought to book.

The newspaper said there has been “panic” among the Jamaat cadres after the arrest of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior BNP leader with whom the Jamaat has had close liason.

Chowdhury is the first non-Jamaat leader to be booked by the International War Crimes Tribunal, a three-judge panel. His arrest came as a “double blow” for the Jamaat, the report said quoting “party insiders”.

Talking to The Daily Star, several Jamaat leaders admitted that they were going through the worst time since the party, banned after Bangladeshs birth, was revived in the late 1970s.

However, while working indoors and under different guise, the Jamaat is waiting out its adverse moment.

Only three years of the present government remain and we will be able to start a strong movement against the government very soon, said acting secretary general A.T.M. Azharul Islam at a discussion held here Dec 16, 2010.

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