DHAKA: The first trial of a suspected collaborator from Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence heard Wednesday how the accused, now a senior politician, led a wave of looting and arson by pro-Pakistan militia.
Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a top figure in the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, listened from the dock as the first witness in his trial described how Sayedee identified homes and shops of supporters of the liberation movement to Pakistani army officers.
Mahbubul Islam Howlader, 60, told the court how a pro-Pakistani "auxiliary force" led by Sayedee had then "torched and looted" scores of houses and shops belonging to minority Hindus.
Howldaer also recalled seeing Sayedee order his men to shoot a Hindu man who had been captured and tied to a coconut tree.
Sayedee stands charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, rape, religious persecution and enslavement. If found guilty, the 71-year-old could be hanged.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -- the daughter of independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman -- established the war crimes tribunal after she returned to power in 2009.
Opposition parties have condemned what they see as a "show trial" targetting Sheikh Hasina's political opponents. The New York-based group Human Rights has said the tribunal's legal procedures fall short of international standards.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which was called East Pakistan until 1971, has struggled to come to terms with its violent birth.
The current government says up to three million people were killed in the war, many murdered by locals collaborating with Pakistani forces.
The 1971 war began after tens of thousands of people were killed in Dhaka when then-West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight, a campaign intended to deter Bangladeshis from seeking independence.