Bangladesh arrests leading 1971 war crime suspect

Last Updated: Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 15:43

Dhaka: An opposition politician was arrested
by Bangladesh police on Thursday on charges of "crime against
humanity" during the 1971 Liberation War.

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a key figure in the main
opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and considered
close to former prime minister Khaleda Zia is accused of war
crimes during the nine-month struggle against Pakistan which
left three million dead.

"He has been arrested in line with directives of the
International Crimes Tribunal", constituted earlier this year
to try those accused of targeting unarmed civilians in 1971
home minister Sahara Khatun told reporters on the sidelines of
the Victory Day Parade in the capital.

She said the tribunal issued an order saying Chowdhury
must be arrested immediately and police complied with the
order.

But BNP secretary general Khandker Delwar Hoissain alleged
that Chowdhury`s arrest was "unlawful" as it came ahead of
issuance of the charge sheet and the action meant, the
government does not have respect for the law.

"We are not opposed to war crimes trial but it appears the
process is aimed at eliminate the opposition," he said while
the BNP`s called a half day stoppage on Sunday in Chittagong,
the hometown of Chowdhury to protest his arrest.

Hours after his arrest Chowdhury in his mid sixties was
taken to Bangabandhu Sehikh Mujib Medical University for
medical examination as he complained of "sickness" at police
station where he was brought for initial legal formalities.

But a police spokesman said he would be taken to a court
later today where they would seek to remand him to police
custody for 10 days to be interrogated on war crimes and other
charges.

In a recent television interview Chowdhury in his typical
ridiculing tone denied the allegations against him claiming
that he spent most of time abroad during the Liberation War.

But a special investigation agency, constituted along
with the International Crimes Tribunal, recently said they
gathered "enough evidence" of "crimes against humanity"
against Chowdhury, who was particularly suspected for
masterminding the 1971 killing of Nutun Chandra Singha, a
respected philanthropist and an industrialist in Chittagong.

Chowdhury is also widely accused of running a "torture
cell" at his residence in the port city during the war time.

His arrest came as five stalwarts of fundamentalist
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which was a crucial partner of the past
BNP-led four-party coalition government including the party`s
chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Ahsan
Mohammad Mojaheed were now in jail to face the trial on war
crime charges.

JI was opposed to Bangladesh independence while Nizami
and Mojajeed allegedly led the infamous elite Al-Badr
auxiliary militia force, which is particularly castigated for
their alleged role in killing a number of leading
intelligentsia during the war.

The tribunal along with the special investigation agency
and a prosecution cell was constituted earlier this year in
line with the election pledges of Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina`s ruling Awami League to expose to trial the war
criminals.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 15:43

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