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War crimes probe targets ‘butchers’

Charges to be pressed against Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, Ashrafuzzaman in 2 months


[Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, left, with the Prince of Wales at the Markfield Islamic Foundation, Leics on January 24, 2003. Photo: The Telegraph]

Investigations into suspected war criminals Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan are in the final stages, investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal told The Daily Star yesterday.

“We have made substantial progress in the cases against them,” said Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, chief investigator of the agency. “It could take a couple more months to move the charges [to the tribunal].”

The two are, however, living in the UK and the US.

Mueen-Uddin, now a successful community activist and Muslim leader in Britain, was allegedly the “operation in charge” of the killings of intellectuals during the Liberation War.

He led the Dhaka unit of Al Badr, one of the forces created to help the Pakistani occupation army and oppose the pro-liberation forces during the war. Ashrafuzzaman Khan co-led the Al Badr unit, said chief investigator Hannan.

Once moved to the International Crimes Tribunal, the two could be officially charged for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971.

According to Hannan, Ashrafuzzaman was one of the masterminds behind the intellectual killings and he directly took part in the killings of many celebrities, scholars, journalists and other intellectuals during the war. A Bangla daily Purbadesh report titled “Nab the butcher of intellectuals” published on January 13, 1972, had a photograph of Ashrafuzzaman Khan.

Mueen-Uddin used to work for the Purbadesh during the war and Bangladesh Observer on its December 19, 1971, issue described him as the “operation in charge” of Al Badr, Dhaka. The New York Times in its January 3, 1972, issue also elaborated how the journalist was linked to the “murder of Bengalis”.

The Telegraph, a UK-based newspaper, yesterday ran a report on Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin titled “Leading British Muslim Leader faces war crimes charges in Bangladesh”.

“Mueen-Uddin, then a journalist on the Purbadesh newspaper in Dhaka was a member of a fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Islami, which supported Pakistan in the war,” the report said.

“He is accused of being a part of a collaborationist Bangla militia, the Al-Badr brigade, which rounded up, tortured and killed prominent citizens to deprive the new state of its intellectual and cultural elite,” the report said.

His victims include Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, a prominent scholar of Bengali literature, journalist Sirajuddin Hussain and Ghulam Mostafa, who was a colleague of Mueen-Uddin in Purbadesh newspaper, the report said.

Dolly Chaudhury, the widow of Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, claims to have identified Mueen-Uddin as one of three men who abducted her husband on the night of December 14, 1971, the report added.

“I was able to identify one [of the abductors], Mueen-Uddin,” she said in a video testimony, reportedly seen by The Sunday Telegraph.

“He was wearing a scarf but my husband pulled it down as he was taken away. When he was a student, he often used to go to my brother in law’s house. My husband, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, we all recognised that man.”

The widow of another victim also claims that Mueen-Uddin was in the group that abducted her husband, Sirajuddin Hussain, another journalist, from their home on the night of December 10, 1971, the report read.

“There was no doubt that he was the person involved in my husband’s abduction and killing,” said Noorjahan Seraji.

A member the group was caught later on and he allegedly gave Mueen-Uddin’s name in his confession.

Ghulam Mostafa, a colleague of Mueen-Uddin at Purbadesh, also had disappeared.

According to the report, “Mueen-Uddin’s then editor at Purbadesh Atiqur Rahman” in his statement said Mueen-Uddin had been the first journalist in the country to reveal the existence of the Al-Badr brigade and had demonstrated intimate knowledge of its activities.

He said after his colleagues disappeared, Mueen-Uddin had asked for his home address. Fearing that he too would be abducted, the editor gave a fake address.

Atiqur’s name, complete with the fake address, appeared on an Al-Badr death list found just after the end of the war, he said in the statement, The Telegraph reported.

“I gave that address only to Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, and when that list appeared it was obvious that he had given that address to Al Badr,” Atiqur said in statements given to the investigators.

“I’m sure I gave the address to no-one else.”

Atiqur Rahman then published a front-page story and picture about Mueen-Uddin, who had by that stage left Dhaka, naming him as involved in the disappearances.

Moving to the UK in the early 70′s, Mueen-Uddin has taken British citizenship and built a successful career as a community activist and Muslim leader, the report said.

He was the vice-chairman of the controversial East London Mosque controlled by the IFE. In this capacity, he greeted Prince Charles when the heir to the British throne opened an extension to the mosque, it said, adding that Mueen-Uddin was also closely involved with the Muslim Council of Britain.

A former chairman of the charity organisation called Muslim Aid, Mueen-Uddin is now a trustee at the organisation, which has a budget of £20 million.

Mueen-Uddin, the director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), “fiercely denies any involvement in a number of abductions and disappearances” during the Liberation War, the report said.

He has claimed the accusations were “politically-motivated” and false, added the report.

Toby Cadman, Mueen-Uddin’s lawyer, has told The Telegraph that no formal allegations have been put to Mueen-Uddin and therefore it is not appropriate to issue any formal response.

“Any and all allegations that Mueen-Uddin committed or participated in any criminal conduct during the Liberation War of 1971 that have been put in the past will continue to be strongly denied in their entirety.”

He told the newspaper that for the chief investigator to be making such public comments raises serious questions as to the integrity of the investigation.

“Therefore, the comments by the chief investigator are highly improper and serve as a further basis for raising the question as to whether a fair trial may be guaranteed before the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh.”

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