The U.S. has extended support to the trial of the people who committed crimes against humanity during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

Washington, however, stressed the need for holding the trial in a free and fair way. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State, spoke at a press briefing in Washington DC on January 22, a day after Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal passed its maiden verdict orderinggiving death sentence to an Islamist leader, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, on charges of genocide, killing, rape and arson as the local cohorts of the Pakistani army during the war. The press statement was posted on its website.

“As Bangladesh addresses the legacy of atrocities committed during the Liberation War and as we await further verdicts by the International Crimes Tribunal, the U.S. urges the government of Bangladesh to adhere to the due process standards that are part of its treaty obligations, and to fully respect the rule of law,” the statement said. “However, we believe that any such trials must be free, fair, and transparent, and in accordance with domestic standards and international standards Bangladesh has agreed to uphold through its ratification of international agreements, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

Meanwhile the western media have widely covered the maiden verdict of the tribunal. While providing historical and political perspective, most major newspapers and other media outlets ran reports on the verdict. Some of the reports, however, termed the tribunal “controversial” and identified convicted Azad as a “well-known Muslim cleric”. They also reported the sharp division between the ruling Awami League and opposition combine led by BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami over the trial.

U.K., Germany and France also reacted to the trial. U.K. supported it but highlighted its stand against death sentence. Germany also said Bangladesh has the right to trace its past. France said the trial is absolutely a Bangladesh matter. Major Pakistani newspapers and TV channels also covered the conviction of the Maulana Azad who, according to Bangladesh police sources, has fled to Pakistan to avoid arrest.

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