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.


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

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