Bangladeshi prosecutors on Thursday slapped six war crime charges, including genocide, against a senior leader of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, a day after the party’s second-highest ranked official was sentenced to death for atrocities during the country’s 1971 war of independence.
“We have brought six charges against Jamaat-e-Islami’s (detained) assistant secretary general A.T.M. Azharul Islam...the court (International Crimes Tribunal or ICT) has fixed July 24 to issue orders on the indictment of the accused,” prosecutor A.K.M. Saiful Islam told a press briefing.
He said the prosecution sought to try him on specific charges like murders, genocide, abduction, persecution and rape, siding with the Pakistani troops during the 1971 liberation war.
Islam was arrested in August last year to face justice for war crimes along with nearly a dozen other top Jamaat leaders and its then student wing Islamic Chhatra Sangha leaders who were opposed to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.
In a related development, the ICT on Thursday issued an arrest warrant against an incumbent but fugitive mayor of a town in western Faridpur to face justice for war crimes charges.
Prosecution lawyers said Mayor of Nagarkanda Zahid Hossain Khokan, also a local leader of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party was a self-declared collaborator of the Pakistani troops as he used to say “I was a Razakar (collaborator), still am, and want to die as a Razakar.”
Khokon, who previously was a Jamaat activist, however, went into hiding since investigations were launched to unearth his 1971 role.
The development came as Jamaat enforced a nationwide general strike protesting the death sentence handed out to its secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, who led the infamous Al Badr force.
Al-Badr is particularly castigated for carrying out a systematic cleansing campaign against the Bengali intelligentsia during the Liberation War.
Thursday is the fourth consecutive day of shutdown enforced by Jamaat to protest the war crimes trial. The reports, however, said the strike drew little response in the capital as it failed to keep most transport out of the road.
But parts of the country and the outskirts of the capital where Jamaat is believed to have their stronghold, however, witnessed isolated violence leaving nine people dead in the past one week as the fundamentalist party preferred violent protests to reject the trial.
The verdict against Mojaheed was the second judgement in a week that came two days after the ICT-1 handed down 90 years of imprisonment to 90-year-old Jamaat supremo Ghulam Azam saying his role in 1971 deserved death penalty but his old age and ailments prompted it to deliver the long imprisonment.
Since the constitution of the first war crimes tribunal three years ago, 12 people were indicted so far nine of them being Jamaat leaders, two of main opposition and Jamaat’s crucial ally BNP and one being a junior leader of ruling Awami League.
Mojaheed was the fifth accused and the fifth Jamaat leader convicted by the two special tribunals set up in 2010 in line with ruling Awami League’s election pledges.
Four of the convicts were handed down death penalty and two others long term or life imprisonments with five of them being Jamaat stalwarts and one being an expelled Jamaat leader.