A London-based Muslim leader has been convicted and sentenced to death by a Bangladeshi court for war crimes committed during the country’s liberation war more than 40 years ago.
Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, an NHS Muslim chaplain and trustee of the Muslim Aid organization, was sentenced in absentia by a Special Court in Dhaka for leading a notorious killing squad during East Pakistan’s war for independence from West Pakistan in 1971.
The court found that Mr Uddin, along with US-based Ashrafuzzaman Khan, had led the al-Badr squad which was accused of murdering 18 pro-independence activists, including University teachers, journalists and physicians.
Prosecutors said the killings were carried out between 10 and 15 December, when Pakistan was losing the war in Bangladesh, and were part of a campaign intended to strip the newborn nation of its intellectuals.
“Justice will be denied if they are not given death sentences for their heinous crimes,” judge Obaidul Hassan told the crowded tribunal, according to Reuters.
“The abduction and killings of these intellectuals were pre-planned by [the defendants],” Prosecutor Sahidur Rahman told The Independent.
He said that prior to the war, Mueen and Ashraf were top leaders of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami political party, which had opposed the liberation war of Bangladesh.
Lawyers representing Mueen denounced the verdict and said the court had staged a show trial.
Mueen’s barrister Toby Cadman said that the Bangladeshi government had refused to put the tribunal under “international supervision” and said that witnesses had been “abducted and coerced” and evidence “falsified” in the lead up to the trial.
The war, which claimed the lives of more than three million people, came to an end on 16 December, 1971, after the Eastern Command of Pakistani Armed Forces surrendered.
Uddin, who worked as a journalist during the war, has said he opposed the break up of East and West Pakistan.
He fled Bangladesh soon after the war, settling in the United Kingdom.