B`desh asks Turkey not to meddle in 1971 war crime trial

A visit by a 14-member Turkish political delegation to Dhaka to witness the trial process has worsened the matter.

Dhaka: Taking strong exception to Turkey seeking "clemency" for those accused of the 1971 war crimes, Bangladesh has asked it to explain why it is interfering in the ongoing trial of these suspects, most of whom belonged to the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party.

"The Turkish move surprised us," a Foreign Ministry official told PTI, noting that Dhaka-Ankara ties have otherwise been "excellent" and witnessed exchange of high-level visits in recent years.

The official`s remarks came days after right-wing Turkish President Abdullah Gul sent letters to his Bangladesh counterpart Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calling for "clemency" for those accused of war crimes.

A visit by a 14-member Turkish political delegation to Dhaka to witness the trial process has worsened the matter.

The Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry official said the Turkish envoy here was also asked to explain his country`s interference in the ongoing trial of the Bangladeshi suspects.

Bangladesh government told him that the December 23 letter from the Turkish President was not acceptable as "it is a clear interference in the internal affairs" of the country.

Foreign ministry officials said the aide memoir handed to the envoy categorically mentioned that Bangladesh government was determined to conduct the war crimes trial as the people of the country extended their overwhelming support for the initiative, and "the trial is taking place in the most transparent way by maintaining international standard".

"Bangladesh believes that it is not the job of a friendly country to create any problem or confusion about an issue and hopes that this type of incident will not happen again," they quoted the diplomatic protest letter as saying.

The Foreign Ministry officials said Bangladesh`s envoy in Ankara, Md Zulfiqur Rahman, was summoned by the Turkish Foreign Office a day after Dhaka summoned Turkish envoy.

According to officials familiar with the case, Gul in his letter said the accused, mostly belonging to Bangladesh`s Jamaat-e-Islami party and particularly its former chief Ghulam Aazam should be pardoned as they were too old to stand the trial.

They said the Turkish President also feared Bangladesh could witness a civil war if they were handed down death penalties for the 1971 war crimes for siding with the Pakistani troops.