Bangladeshi Islamist leaders charged in 1971 killings

Dhaka, Jan 25 (IANS) The chief of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), his political aides and three Pakistani nationals have been accused of killing 345 people in April 1971, when resistance to the Pakistan Army’s crackdown in the then East Pakistan was building up.

Mohammad Amir Hossain Mollah, a freedom fighter, Thursday filed a murder charge against JeI’s ameer (chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, five of their party men and three non-Bangladeshis for the massacre during the liberation war.

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JeI was a coalition partner and Nizami and Mujahid were ministers in the last elected government (2001-06) of Khaleda Zia.

In his case filed with the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court in Dhaka, Mollah stated that the Jamaat men carried out the killings in the capital’s Mirpur area. The victims included 21 of his relatives, one colleague, 43 residents of Mirpur and 280 others from different areas of the country.

The killings took place on two days, April 24 and Dec 18, 1971.

By the latter date, Bangladesh had been liberated but Islamist militia like Al Shams and Al Badr carried out the mass killings soon after the Pakistani forces surrendered.

According to the complainant, some 100 to 150 freedom fighters had surrounded the camps in Mirpur and Mohammadpur areas where the Islamic militants were holed up.

Nizami, Mojaheed, Quader and others fired at them, leaving a freedom fighter Abdus Sattar dead, the complaint said.

On Dec 7, 2007, a similar case was filed against Nizami, Mojaheed and seven other JeI men at a Dhaka court for killing two freedom fighters during the liberation war and the court ordered investigations by the Keraniganj police station, The Daily Star reported.

In Thursday’s case, Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Emran Hossain Chowdhury recorded the complainant’s statement and directed the officer-in-charge (OC) of Pallabi police station to register the murder case as a first information report (FIR).

The complainant cited 15 persons, including himself and the victims’ parents and relatives as witnesses in the case.

The Islamists, who were declared outlawed after the independence in 1971, gained entry into the political mainstream during the tenures of military rulers Ziaur Rahman and H.M. Ershad.

Political analysts said the cases against the Islamists are part of the efforts to get them de-recognised by the election commission.

The current interim government has said all “war criminal” of 1971 should be tried and punished, but added that this was “not a priority task”.