Bangladesh's first war crimes trial deferred

Delwar Hossain Sayeedee, facing 20 charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, to return to court on November 20.

    A special court in Bangladesh set up to try war crimes suspects from the country's 1971 battle for independence has delayed the start of its first trial.

    The prosecution was due to make an opening statement on Sunday against Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a leader of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party who is charged with 20 counts of crimes against humanity and genocide.

    Sayedee denies the charges, which includes mass murder, rape, looting, arson, and forcing Hindus to convert to Islam.

    Sayedee's lawyer had asked for a review of the charges and called for the withdrawal of tribunal chairman Nizamul Huq because of his alleged bias against defendants.

    "The trial will now start on November 20," court register Shahinul Islam told the AFP news agency.

    Stephen Kay, an international lawyer tells Al Jazeera the tribunals are unfair

    Sayeedi was arrested in 2010 along with four other leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami who are accused of war crimes, including the party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami. Sayeedi is the first to be indicted by the tribunal.

    Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971 openly campaigned against breaking away from Pakistan during the nine-month war in during which about three million people were killed.

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had established the court after she returned to power in 2009, but it has been widely criticised for targeting her political opponents.

    Sayedee's supporters says the charges against him are politically motivated.

    Stephen Kay, who is an interntional court lawyer told Al Jazeera "the tribunal is a national court, trying an international crime, it is an unfair war crimes tribunal."

    Jamaat-e-Islami was a key partner in the 2001-2006 government headed by Khaleda Zia, the former prime minister and current opposition leader.

    Zia, the long-time political rival of Hasina, has called the tribunal a farce.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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