The investigating agency of Bangladesh’s war crime tribunals have launched a formal probe into the alleged war crimes committed by the Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party during the country’s liberation war in 1971.

The probe began after the two tribunals, set up to deal with war-time offences, through several verdicts put the spotlight on Jamaat-e-Islami’s role in 1971.

While sentencing Jamaat guru Ghulam Azam to 90 year jail, a war crimes tribunal said in its July 15 verdict, ‘Taking the contextual circumstances coupled with documentary evidence into consideration, we are led to observe that Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party under the leadership of accused Prof Ghulam Azam intentionally functioned as a ‘criminal organisation’ especially during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

A total of 10 top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, which sided with the Pakistan army as a political party to resist the Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, are now facing trials in the two war crimes tribunals. Five of them have already been convicted of crimes against humanity and genocide and sentenced either to death or imprisonment for life-time and 90 years.

The activities of the auxiliary forces of the Pakistan army like the Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Peace Committee, all the outfits allegedly manned and ran by Jamaat, would also come under investigation, said Abdul Hannan Khan, chief coordinator of the investigating agency of the war crimes tribunals on Sunday. He also said, the investigating agency would submit formal charges against the party before the war crimes tribunal on completion of probe.

Jamaat, founded by controversial cleric Abul Ala Mududi in 1941, got banned in 1959 and 1964, for its communal role during the united Pakistan era. It was banned again soon after Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 but was allowed to resume politics during the tenure of Gen. Ziaur Rahman.

One of the two war crimes tribunals, while delivering verdict on Ghulam Azam, said, “The Jamaat had indulged in indiscriminate massacre of their political opponents belonging to the Bangalee nation in the name of liquidating ‘miscreants’ and ‘infiltrators’ for which it had used Razakars and Al-Badar.”

Bangladesh Parliament on February 17 amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, allowing the state to appeal against inadequate sentencing of a convict and paving the way to hold trials of organisations for their criminal activities during the Liberation War. The supreme court of Bangladesh, in a recent verdict, has declared Jamaat’s registration with the Election Commission illegal, thus cancelling its rights to take part in general elections.