B`deshi tribunal indicts 1971 war crimes suspect

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

Dhaka: An influential opposition BNP lawmaker
was Wednesday indicted by a special Bangladeshi tribunal for
"crimes against humanity" during country`s 1971 Liberation War
against Pakistan, nearly two years after his arrest.

"The 23 charges (brought by the prosecution against you
(Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury) is framed," chair of the three-
member panel of International Crimes Tribunal-1 Justice
Nizamul Haque pronounced as the detained suspect was
brought to dock from suburban Kashimpur Central Jail.

The tribunal then asked the prosecution to make their
"opening statement" against the suspect on April 29 to launch
the formal trial of Chowdhury, who happened to be a senior
highest policy making standing committee member and lawmaker
of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Haque also noted "based on the prosecution produced
evidence, the tribunal now had enough reasons to believe that
Chowdhury was involved in crimes against humanity".

Chowdhury was arrested on the eve of the December 16,
2010, Victory Day celebrations, in line with the tribunal`s
order while he was particularly suspected for masterminding
the killing Nutun Chandra Singha in 1971, a respected
philanthropist an industrialist in Chittagong, also the
hometown of the high-profile accused.

He is the second suspect to be indicted for war crimes
charges after Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi
since the first International Crimes Tribunal constituted two
years ago along with a special investigation agency and a
prosecution cell.

Seven other suspects, six being Jamaat stalwarts and
another a BNP leader, are now in jail to face the trial for
1971 crimes while officials said investigations were underway
against several others on the identical charges. The indictment came as the tribunal in line with the
practice of courts read out the 23 prosecution charges and
then asked Chowdhury "if you are guilty or not" and in
response the suspect in his typical apparently ridiculing tone
delivered a long statement without replying directly the

"The tribunal assumes (interpreting your statement) you
have said that you are not guilty," the panel chief said as he
ordered Chowdhury`s indictment.

Apart from Singha`s murder, the specific charges
against Chowdhury included arson, massacre of several hundred
people at different places in the port city and adjoining
areas and forced several thousand others out of the country.

Chowdhury is also widely accused of running a "torture
cell" at his house in the port city during the liberation war
period but he denied all the allegations against him.