Bangladesh names lawmaker as war crimes suspect

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury is a key figure in Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 12:59 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh`s war crimes tribunal probing the country`s bloody 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan on Wednesday named a leading opposition politician as a war crimes suspect.

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a key figure in the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), faces charges over war crimes during the nine-month struggle which left three million dead according to a government estimate.

"We have found concrete evidences of him committing war crimes such as genocide, rape, arson and looting during the war. He took a stand against Bangladesh`s liberation," state counsel Abdur Rahman Howlader said.

The tribunal was set up in March to try people suspected of atrocities during the campaign for independence from Pakistan led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh`s founding father.

Howlader said a petition seeking the arrest of Chowdhury on war crimes charges had been given to the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body set up by the government in March, which would issue a warrant shortly.

It is the first time a senior BNP official has been formally named as a war crimes suspect. Chowdhury is a leading lawmaker and a member of the BNP`s main policymaking body.

In July, the top leaders of the country`s main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, were arrested on war crimes charges.

The BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the tribunal as a political show trial.

Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until 1971, has struggled to come to terms with its bloody birth.

A private group that has investigated the conflict has identified 1,775 people, including Pakistani generals and local Islamists, as complicit in the atrocities.

The government has previously said Pakistani generals and army officers will not be tried by the tribunal, only Bangladeshis who formed auxiliary forces to aid the Pakistani Army and allegedly committed crimes against humanity.