Dhaka: Bangladesh government has said the three detained top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), including its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, could be indicted on the 1971 war crime charges, as the country`s biggest Islamic party launched a nationwide agitation demanding their release.
"The three could be shown arrested" if the Special Tribunal for war crimes wanted to try them for crimes against humanity during the country`s 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan, State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku told a function late last night.
Nizami, JI secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and another party stalwart Delwar Hossain Sayeedi are being grilled in custody on a 16-day remand on a number of charges, including murder, as officials said the investigators focussed on their alleged links with the banned militant outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
The minister did not elaborate on the cases against stalwarts of the JI, which sided with Pakistani troops during the Liberation War, but his comments came amid wide media speculation that their detention could eventually expose them to war crimes` trials following their arrest last week.
The Daily Star newspaper quoting an unnamed `influential` source in ruling Awami League as saying that the main reason behind the arrest of the three was to kick off the war crime trial soon, under a political decision of government on the matter.
Bangladesh earlier this year constituted a high-power three-member Special Court along with an investigation agency to expose to justice the Bengali-speaking perpetrators of crimes against humanity under the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973 in line with its electoral pledges.
Nizami and Mujahid are also said to be the top leaders of notorious Al Badr, which is particularly castigated for killing a number of leading Bengali university professors and professionals just two days ahead of the victory of the joint Indo-Bangla forces on December 16, 1971 against Pakistan.
But officials familiar with the investigations said police are now trying to unearth the JI`s alleged links with militants as a detained JMB member earlier told them that at least 25 JI leaders are concurrently holding posts in the banned militant outfit. Meanwhile, JI, a key ally of opposition BNP, launched a countrywide two-day agitation today against the arrest of three of its top leaders.
It asked party workers and supporters to stage protest rallies, demanding release of its chief Nizami and the two other top leaders.
"Jamaat is a legal political party (and) the three have been doing politics peacefully and lawfully ... there is no evidence of their involvement in any illegal activities," acting JI Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam told a press briefing yesterday.
The party has also announced a new five-day protest programme, including human chain demonstrations and hunger strikes by its leaders and workers.
Azharul alleged that the three detained leaders were being "severely tortured mentally during interrogation”.