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Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin: 'Not a war criminal'

The alleged war criminal, who fled Bangladesh after the 1971 war, discusses the charges against him.

Last Modified: 10 Aug 2013 14:12
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In 1971, war raged in South Asia for nine months between the Pakistani army and people in east Pakistan who wanted independence.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions were displaced. Out of that violent and bloody struggle, Bangladesh was born.

After more than 40 years, the scars are not yet fully healed. The massacre of Bengali civilians by Pakistani troops and their collaborators is still an open wound.

I was not involved in any criminal activities of any nature in 1971 or since. In fact, I was not even a supporter of military action, and I resigned my political posts after the military crackdown .... The tribunal in Bangladesh is a joke, it's a sham trial ....

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, British Muslim leader and alleged war criminal

In 2010, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina set up the International Crimes Tribunal to investigate and prosecute suspects for war crimes and genocide.

The tribunal has already charged more than a dozen people and sentenced several people to death, including Delawar Hossein Sayeedi, the vice president of Jamat-e-Islam, the largest Islamic party in Bangladesh.

The verdicts were welcomed by many who wanted justice for the atrocities committed during the struggle for independence. Hundreds of thousands of students and anti-war protesters gathered in Shabag Square in Dhaka, to demand the execution of all war criminals.

But the trials have also caused a backlash among those who see them as politically motivated, and an attack on Islam.

In February, protesters led by Jamat-e-Islam and other activists, took to the streets. Several people died and hundreds were injured in the violence that followed.

And the tribunal itself has come under fire from international observers. All the suspects are political rivals of the prime minister. Human Rights groups have questioned the fairness and transparency of the trials, and lawyers have said the procedures are flawed.

In the latest indictments, one of Britain's most prominent Muslim leaders has been charged with war crimes.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who fled to Britain after the 1971 war, is the director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the national health service and a Muslim community representative.

Mueen-Uddin is accused of leading a notorious militia during the war, abducting and torturing civilians, and helping Pakistani forces to target and kill top intellectuals including doctors, scholars and journalists.

On Tuesday, the International Criminal Tribunal in Bangladesh started a trial in Mueen-Uddin's absence and has brought 11 charges against him. He could face the death penalty.

Talk to Al Jazeera met Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin who, until now, has said little about the charges against him.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430.  

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Al Jazeera
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