The chief of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami party, Motiur Rahman Nizami, was indicted on Monday on 16 charges of crimes against humanity committed during the nation's liberation War in 1971.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 of Bangladesh also set July 1 as the date for his trial to begin. The charges against Mr. Nizami, who was the chief of the Al Badr killing squad that murdered hundreds of Bengali intellectuals during the war, include genocide, murder, conspiracy, planning, incitement and complicity.

Standing on the dock, the Ameer (chief) of the fundamentalist party that sided with the Pakistani Army to oppose Bangladesh's independence, pleaded innocence when the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Nizamul Huq, asked for his comments on the charges. Mr. Nizami, who was Industries Minister in the last Cabinet of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, is now among six Jamaat leaders, including the founder of the party, Ghulam Azam, and two BNP leaders facing war crimes charges.

The charges against Mr. Nizami include masterminding the execution of intellectuals days before the Pakistani Army surrendered to the India-Bangladesh joint command on December 16, 1971. Mr. Nizami is widely alleged to have masterminded a plan to substantially cripple the potential of the newborn country.

His lawyer has argued that Mr. Nizami, then the president of the Islami Chhatra Sangha (now Islami Chhatra Shibir), Jamaat's student wing, had believed in Pakistan and its sovereignty. “He was a Pakistani, 100 per cent,” claimed Mr. Nizami's pleader.

On Monday, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 also indicted the party's assistant secretary-general, Abdul Quader Molla, for crimes against humanity during the liberation war and fixed June 20 as the date to start recording deposition of witnesses.

The tribunal, led by Justice A.T.M. Fazle Kabir, framed charges against Mr. Molla who, as a young leader of the party, had operated in Dhaka's Mirpur and Mohammadpur areas and allegedly murdered people who he thought were anti-Pakistan. The prosecution said that Urdu-speaking Biharis had actively assisted the killing missions of Mr. Molla, who took part in the genocide at Mirpur's Alokdi village and was called the ‘Butcher of Mirpur' for his atrocities. Mr. Molla was indicted for six incidents of killing, genocide, conspiracy and instigation during the war. The accused pleaded not guilty when the charges were read out to him.

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