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Bangladesh Islamic leader dies awaiting war crimes trial

Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) [party website, in Bengali] leader AKM Yusuf [official website, in Bengali], died at age 87 on Sunday of cardiac arrest. Bangladeshi authorities arrested [JURIST report] Yusuf in May on 13 charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Yusuf became ill while in jail, where we was detained while facing the war crimes charges, which included genocide, arson and rape. The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [JURIST news archive] had been scheduled to begin Yusuf's trial on February 12. His defense counsel had previously sought bail due to the man's old age, and now claim that the jail should have provided better treatment.

Prosecutors allege that Yusuf helped to train 96 Islamic party activists [bdnews24 report] for the paramilitary group known as the "Razakars." The militia group reportedly collaborated with the Pakistani junta during the 1971 war to suppress Hindu dissent. The prosecution claims to have uncovered evidence establishing that Yusuf lead the Razakars in killing approximately 700 people. In addition, reports suggest that Yusuf directed military forces to loot and burn more than 300 homes and 400 stores, and to forcibly convert approximately 200 Hindus. Prosecutors filed charges against Yusuf in the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) in April.

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