Dhaka: Bangladesh on Wednesday arrested an Islamist leader on charges of war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan, lawyers said.
Ghulam Azam, 89, a former head of opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, has been accused of creating and leading pro-Pakistan militias which carried out many murders and rapes during the nine-month war.
“He has been arrested after the International Crimes Tribunal rejected his (anticipatory ) bail petition,” state prosecutor Syed Haider Ali said. “He was the mastermind of all crimes against humanity during 1971.”
Azam is the sixth and the most high profile Islamist to have been arrested since the nation’s secular government set up the tribunal in 2010 to try suspects. Two senior members from the main opposition Party are also facing war crime charges.
Both parties have dismissed the court as a government “show trial”, while New York-based Human Rights Watch has said legal procedures used by the tribunal fall short of international standards.
Azam’s lawyer slammed the arrest, which came after he was called to the tribunal. “We don’t know yet the charges against him, the order was not correct,” he said.