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Bangladesh opposition leader charged with crimes against humanity

Prosecutors for the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] arrested the former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party (JI) [party website; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] on Wednesday, alleging crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 [Bangladesh News backgrounder]. Ghulam Azam, 89, was taken into custody [bdnews24.com report] Wednesday after his preemptive request for bail, based on health and age, was denied by the court on Tuesday. A hearing has been scheduled for February 15 to formally establish charges against him. Azam, who opposed the independence of Bangladesh and allegedly aided the Pakistani Army during the war, maintains that the charges are politically motivated [BBC report]. He functioned as chief of JI in Bangladesh until 2000.

In November the ICTB began its first trial [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The defendant is Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh [official website, in Bengali] and one of the former leaders of JI. Earlier that month ICTB prosecutors filed an application [JURIST report] for formal charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a former leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party [party website] who is also accused of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War. In May Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] sent a letter to the Bangladesh government praising its efforts through the ICTB to prosecute war crimes, but urging the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations [JURIST report]. Bangladesh established the ICTB [JURIST report] in March 2010.

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