Dhaka: The Bangladesh government fears "undue pressure" from Middle East countries, including a risk to jobs of millions of its citizens working there, as it prepares to try Islamists accused of "war crimes" during the 1971 freedom movement, says a report.
"A number of middle and top-ranking leaders said the government made the move (on holding the trial) on assurance from influential countries in the West that they would tackle any backlash from Middle East countries against the arrests of Jamaat leaders," The Daily Star said on Friday.
The trial process began after "influential countries of the West" assured Dhaka that they would "tackle" any such pressures, the newspaper said, quoting sources in the ruling Awami League.
The government arrested three top officials of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) earlier this week following a court order on a charge that they had "hurt sentiments of Muslims" at a rally in March.
Their custody is being utilised to question them about their alleged role as leaders of youth wings of Islamist parties that targeted unarmed civilians in the run up to the freedom movement, the media report said.
These Islamists picked on intellectuals and killed thousands from out of three million who perished in 1971.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s government and Awami League officials deny that detention of the Islamist leaders in specific cases is being utilised to start the "war crimes" trial.
But the newspaper quoted unnamed middle-level party officials to say that the Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid among others were trying to "sabotage" the war crimes trial and had to be apprehended.
Leader of opposition and former prime minister Khaleda Zia on Thursday termed the arrests of the JeI leaders, her political allies, as "a heinous example of political repression in an autocratic manner" and demanded their release.