Dhaka: A top Islamist leader of Bangladesh accused of leading a militia that killed thousands of civilians during the 1971 freedom struggle has claimed he had "not even slapped anyone".
Bangladesh`s Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid has been listed as president of the Al Badr, an islamist force of Razakars (volunteers), who looted and killed thousands of people, including members of Hindu religious minority, perceived as sympathetic to the freedom movement.
Mujahid said neither he, nor any of the JeI leaders accused of committing what are being called "war crimes" would flee the country as they had done nothing wrong.
Mojahid on Wednesday said he could not recall many things he did during the country`s independence war but said that he was not involved in any kind of crime such as killing and looting.
"I played my role as an activist of Chhatra Sangha (JeI`s students wing) during the independence war," he said.
"I did not slap anyone with my hands, let alone kill anyone," he told reporters.
Some media reports on Thursday alleged that Mujahid was feigning `amnesia`.
JeI had opposed the freedom movement and had called the freedom fighters "betrayers".
Asked if he still supported the role the Jamaat had played during the country`s freedom movement, Mujahid said: "Past is past. It is not right to discuss the past."
"The government does not need to be so anxious about Jamaat. Not a single leader of the party will flee. We want to tell them through journalists that we did not descend from anywhere else. We were rather born on this soil and will die here," New Age quoted him as saying.
He said: "We will not leave the country. As we did not commit any offence, we have nothing to fear."
Mujahid had warned the government of an "explosive situation" after the government last week constituted a three-judge tribunal, to be aided by investigators and public prosecutors, to conduct the "war crimes trial".
Dhaka says three million people perished during the freedom movement. After independence, Jamaat was banned only to stage a comeback in the late 1970s.
The process of the trial began on Monday.
"We will have to do it (complete the inquiry report) soon but we cannot indulge in any hurriedness," Abdul Matin, the chief investigator, told reporters at his office.
The tribunal has received a list of suspects and documentary evidence gathered by freedom fighters` organisations over the last many years.