Dhaka: The Bangladesh government on Sunday filed a petition with its International Crimes Tribunal, seeking permission to show four detained top Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) leaders as arrested in connection with "war crimes" committed in 1971.
The process has begun of trying those who are accused of targeting thousands of unarmed civilians, mainly sympathisers of the movement against then East Pakistan authorities and religious minorities, in the run-up to the freedom movement.
It is a sensitive issue in Bangladesh for which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s government has updated the relevant law and has sought to garner international support.
The four leaders, detained on different charges including sedition, are Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid and senior assistant secretary generals Muhammad Qamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Mollah.
JeI is the country`s largest Islamist party that had opposed the freedom movement.
"We have submitted a petition to the tribunal through its registrar, seeking necessary order so that the four Jamaat big shots can be kept confined and the investigation agency can smoothly conduct investigation into the allegations against them of committing genocide, killing, rape, torture, looting, arson during the Liberation War in 1971," Daily Star quoted prosecutor Golam Arif Tipu as saying.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told a conference of Muslim marriage officers Saturday: "The government will not try any innocent. If criminals try to save themselves through any political party`s shelter, their trial does not mean a trial of that party."
The `war crimes` took place 39 years ago. In the intervening period, many of the alleged perpetrators have died and many fled to Pakistan and other countries.
The staff of the tribunal appointed in March this year has studied volumes of evidence collected by freedom fighters` organisations and have visited sites of the alleged crimes.
Cases filed before courts across the country on charges of committing crimes during the Liberation War will be placed before the tribunal for trial, an official said.
Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Begum Zia and its ally, the JeI, have termed the trial as "political vendetta".
The government recently sent a list of 40 people to the immigration offices of the air and land ports with their photographs to prevent them from leaving the country.