Dhaka: Bangladesh on Monday indicted chief of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami Matiur Rahman Nizami and his close aide Abdul Quader Mollah for "crimes against humanity" during the country's Liberation War in 1971.
"This tribunal hereby charges you (Nizami) on 16 counts of crimes against humanity," pronounced chairman of the three-member panel of International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1 Justice Nizamul Haque as the incumbent Jamaat chief was produced at the crowded courtroom.
Mollah, the assistant secretary general of Jamaat, was indicted by the second three-judge panel of ICT-2 where its chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said charges against him was framed on six counts.
The two Jamaat leaders' indictment came two years after their arrest and with this war crime charges were framed by the special tribunals against five high-profile suspects.
The others who were indicted earlier are former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam and party leaders Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and main opposition BNP's lawmaker Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.
Both the leaders were charged for masterminding or stewarding genocide, mass murders, rapes, arson and inciting others to stage war crimes.
While indicting Nizami, the tribunal asked him if he was guilty or not as the prosecution charged him for carrying out the crimes in capacity as the chief of the notorious Al-Badr auxiliary forces and the student wing of the then Islami Chhatra Sangha as an accomplice of Jamaat chief of East Pakistan wing Ghulam Azam at that time.
"Not guilty," Nizami said in reply after a long statement when he said the then Pakistan Peoples Party leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was entirely responsible for the genocide in 1971.
The prosecution brought 15 charges against Nizami including crimes against humanity and genocide covering murder, rape, arson and looting.
The tribunal-1 took into contingence charges against Nizami on January 9, 2012 and the Tribunal-2 took into cognisance the charges against Mollah on December 28 last year and subsequently pre-indictment hearings were staged when lawyers of both sides argued before the courts.
Earlier on May 13, Tribunal had indicted "top collaborator" of Pakistani junta Ghulam Azam on 61 charges for "crimes against humanity" during 1971 Liberation War. Azam was the former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami.
In the then East Pakistan wing of the fundamentalist party and provincial minister under the Pakistani junta in 1971 and was stripped of his Bangladeshi nationality after the 1971 independence of Bangladesh.
Jamaat opposed Bangladesh's 1971 independence with many of its activists joining the auxiliary forces of the Pakistani troops.
Eight high-profile war crime suspects were detained so far to face trial crimes against humanity since Bangladesh constituted the tribunal in March last year along with the special investigation agency and a prosecution cell in line with the election pledges of the ruling Awami League to expose to trial the war criminals.
If proved guilty the accused could be sentenced to death under the law.
Officially, three million people were killed in the war by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators. Bangladesh attained independence after a nine-month war against Pakistan in 1971.
First Published: Monday, May 28, 2012, 15:48