Milosevic`s lawyer to defend B`desh 1971 war crime suspects

Three British lawyers would defend five detained Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of "crimes against humanity" during Bangladesh`s 1971 Liberation War.

Updated: Feb 06, 2011, 15:33 PM IST

Dhaka: Three British lawyers, one of them
who counselled Yugoslavia`s former President Slobodan
Milosevic against war crime charges, would defend five
detained Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of "crimes against
humanity" during Bangladesh`s 1971 Liberation War.

Jamaat, which opposed the independence war, engaged
the three British legal experts as a process was underway to
expose their detained leaders including party chief Motiur
Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid
and bring them to justice, the Daily Star reported.

It said of the three British legal experts Steven Kay
QC was appointed as the court-assigned defence counsel for
Milosevic who was charged for genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes in the International Criminal Court in
The Hague.

Trial against Milosevic, however, ended without any
verdict as he died in prison in 2006.

Jamaat leaders were immediately not available for
comments but the paper quoted a "top Jamaat leader" as saying
that Kay QC, Toby Cadman and John Cammegh were currently
"giving us advice but we have plans to appoint them as defence
counsels for our leaders against whom formal charges will be
placed by the prosecution".

According to John`s online profile he led the counsel
team for Sierra Leone`s notorious rebel leader Augustine Gbao
at the special court of Sierra Leone while Toby was a
prosecution lawyer in the Bosnia Tribunal for war crimes.

Nizami and Mojajeed allegedly led the infamous elite
Al-Badr auxiliary militia force, which is particularly
castigated for their role in killing a number of leading
intellectuals during the war as Jamaat was opposed to
independence siding with the then Pakistani junta in 1971.

Bangladesh last year constituted a high-powered
three-member International Crimes Tribunal headed by a High
Court judge along with a special investigation agency and a
prosecution cell in line with the election pledges of Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina`s ruling Awami League to bring the war
criminals to justice.

The Star report said one of the detained Jamaat
leaders lawyer Tajul Islam said the three lawyers agreed to
defend the detained leaders of the country`s biggest Islamic
party after formal placement of charges against them as
investigations were underway.

So far six high-profile suspects are in jail to face
the charges of crimes against humanity while the lone detainee
beyond the Jamaat leaders is Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury MP, a
stalwart of ex-premier Khaleda Zia`s main opposition
Bangladesh Nationalist Party`s.

The Tribunal earlier ordered submission of the
investigation report against detained Jamaat leader Delwar
Hossain Sayeedi by later this month and Chowdhury by April
while no dates were fixed yet for hearing of the charges
against the rest four.

Bangladesh Bar Council`s vice president Syed Rezaur
Rahman, who is also a senior lawyer of the special prosecution
cell, said that under the country`s law, no foreign lawyer
could appear in a Bangladesh court without permission of the
council.

"Despite my engagement with the regulatory body, I
can`t tell you right now if the council would give the foreign
lawyers to appear for the (war crime) suspects... (But) until
Bangladesh`s independence no foreigner appeared before any
court in the country," he said.

Asked about the preparedness of launching the main
trial hearing, Rahman said, "we expect the main hearing
against the accused will be started in next few months".

PTI