JI televangelist sentenced to hang for Bangladesh war crimes

By AFP
Published: January 21, 2013
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Activists and former freedom fighters who fought in the 1971 war demonstrate outside the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka. PHOTO: AFP

Activists and former freedom fighters who fought in the 1971 war demonstrate outside the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka. PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s controversial war crimes court probing the nation’s bloody independence war sentenced a top Islamic televangelist to death on Monday in its first conviction.

Maolana Abul Kalam Azad, who has been on the run for the last year, was “sentenced to death by hanging” for genocide and murder committed during the 1971 liberation war, judge Obaidul Hasan announced.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which is a domestic tribunal with no international oversight, was created by the government in 2010 and has been tainted by allegations that it is politically motivated.

“It’s a historic day for the country. It’s victory for the humanity. Bangladeshi people have been waiting for this day. They can now heave a sigh of relief since 1971,” said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam.

Azad, 63, who for years presented a widely watched show on Islam on private and state-run television channels, is a former leading light of Bangladesh’s largest opposition Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami.

In total, eleven senior opposition figures – nine from Jamaat and two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – stand accused of war crimes.

Both Jamaat and BNP have called the cases “politically motivated and farcical” and international rights groups have questioned the proceedings and found loopholes in the war crime laws.

Abdus Shukur Khan, a tribunal-appointed defence lawyer for Azad, said the case was “false”.

“He was not involved in any of these crimes and was never named a collaborator in any of the war books,” he told AFP.

Prosecutor Shahidur Rahman told AFP that Azad became known as “Bachchu the collaborator” during the war in his home town in the southwestern district of Faridpur, where he was accused of murdering at least a dozen Hindus.

“Six of them he shot dead himself and took part in a genocide,” Rahman said.

In the 1980s Azad became a regular speaker at a top mosque in Dhaka. His TV shows are said to have helped shape the Muslim-majority country’s sufi-inspired Islam to that of the more austere Saudi-style Islam.

Azad, who also heads an Islamic charity, went into hiding and is believed to have fled the country immediately after the tribunal opened the case against him.

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 including allegedly by the members of Jamaat.

The administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established the tribunal in March 2010 to try the collaborators, but is has since been hit by a series of controversies.

Last month a presiding judge resigned after his leaked Internet calls showed that he was under pressure from the government to deliver a quick judgement, raising further questions about the fairness of the trials.

The government says the trials are fair and meet international standards.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • Another North Indian
    Jan 21, 2013 - 1:37PM

    Let’s hope the man is actually hanged till death. There must be a clear consequence of such crimes to prevent the entire society from going down the drain.

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  • PakArmySoldier
    Jan 21, 2013 - 1:49PM

    This is what we should have done a long time ago.

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  • Feroz
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:14PM

    Bangladesh must bring all those involved in the genocide of its people in 1971 to Justice. The killing of a million innocents in the biggest massacre in history, simply cannot be condoned. Pakistan must also take steps to bring those involved in the same war crimes to justice, if it ever wants to build a tolerant society at Peace with itself.

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  • Umer
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:16PM

    Thank you god. There is justice in this world.

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  • Ishtiaque
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:20PM

    The man is reportedly hiding in Pakistan. Pakistan authorities should arrest and send him back to Bangladesh

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  • ClueGeek
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:25PM

    Well done Bangladesh ..Jamaat Islami is the root cause of all the evil. They have been spreading hate and promoting intolerance in the name of religion in the sub-continent and their propaganda and hateful speech against non-Muslims and West is the biggest factor behind the spread of terrorism.. Pakistan should learn from Bangladesh and should start prosecuting these guys for crimes against humanity and attacks on minorities. Get rid of Jammat Islami and 99% of terrorism will be gone in days.

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  • An ashamed Pakistani
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:28PM

    Finally.

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  • Waseem
    Jan 21, 2013 - 2:54PM

    what a shame to justice. shame on those who support this decision.

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  • Ansari
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:19PM

    “The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which is a domestic tribunal with no international oversight”

    That’s enough of evidence of impartiality of this Tribunal !!

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  • Shameema
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:20PM

    They should also bring to trial Mukti Bahini who comittted crimes against Biharis. War is not ome- sided.

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  • Shah
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:37PM

    @Feroz:

    Its difficult as Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman is dead….it was an uprise…i dont know when will our people understand…

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  • Umer
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:48PM

    @Shameema:

    They should also bring to trial Mukti Bahini who comittted crimes against Biharis.

    Pakistani government should start such trials, what is stopping it?

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  • Vivek
    Jan 21, 2013 - 4:14PM

    @Umer:
    Move forward instead of history. otherwise start from 1947, when india sent trains with full of dead bodies to Pakistan

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  • Shah
    Jan 21, 2013 - 4:40PM

    @Umer:

    waste of time….thtz y lets Bangalis continue …who cares….!!!

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  • something true
    Jan 21, 2013 - 4:55PM

    he has not done anything wrong unlike raymond davis which was caught redhanded. he is an old man now and the judge does not have any solid proof. what abt the killers of muslim in india?.

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  • Truth detector
    Jan 21, 2013 - 5:06PM

    What about Indian-sponsored Makti-Bahnis terrorists who murdered/raped non-Bengali? Has anyone of them been hanged? Certainly mistakes were made by Pakistan Army but before jumping up & down too much read this from an Indian author:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeadReckoning:Memoriesofthe1971Bangladesh_War

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  • sanity
    Jan 21, 2013 - 6:05PM

    @Shameema:
    more 250000 urdu speaking pakistanis are dying in dhaka and elsewhere in the refugee camp for last 41 years, these people were promised by the punjabi militery that after the war they will be rewarded, so the urdu speaking people worked with pakistan army to kill bengalis. why you are not takinfg back urdu speaking pakistani to your home in pakistan if you care so much about them.

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  • Raza Khan
    Jan 21, 2013 - 7:00PM

    I hope we have same in Pakistan so our clergy learns a lesson!

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  • Roni
    Jan 21, 2013 - 7:00PM

    Kudos to the elected govt of BD. What a shame that after so much atrocities and abject surrender to Indian forces we did not even identify a single army official let alone punishing them. The same way we did not even identify a single army officer for situating and protecting OBL. This says a lot about the future of Pakistan. No wonder BD Tiger is moving ahead.

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  • cautious
    Jan 21, 2013 - 8:10PM

    Same article on BBC says he’s hiding in Pakistan. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21118998

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  • hasan
    Jan 21, 2013 - 8:31PM

    @sanity:
    well said sis

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  • Zalmai
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:14PM

    I love that banner written in Bangla, it proves that you don’t have to adopt the Arabic script, culture, dress or anything that is alien to your country just to be a Muslim nation. Unlike Pakistan who is smitten by all things Arabic and loathes everything that is indigenous to the sub continent.

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  • Syed Qamar Zaidi
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:26PM

    Where is it heading too – ?? No where – You are falling into the trap laid down by the bullys. I am really confused – are you so fool or so innocent?

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  • Shameema
    Jan 21, 2013 - 11:28PM

    @ Sanity: there are over a million Bengalis living in Karachi. Would you like to exchange them for the urdu- speaking Biharis?

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  • Shameema
    Jan 21, 2013 - 11:32PM

    @ U,er: the crimes comitted ny the Mukti Bahini against the urdu- speaking population were committed in EastvPakistan ( now Bangladesh). As successor to the pakistan Government it was legally their dity to try these people.

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  • ASIF
    Jan 21, 2013 - 11:51PM

    It is shame as a Bangladeshi that we take 42 long years to do this. But now at least we are happy that the process is started.

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  • JK
    Jan 22, 2013 - 1:21AM

    @Zalmai:

    In Pakistan Banners are generally in Urdu. Isn’t Urdu a language of Sub Continent?????

    On the side note, what is Pakistan now was conquered by Arabs and also part of many other empires that invaded (Greeks and Central Asians) and others who shared a border and expanded (Afghans and Persians) from the west. Being on eastern end of Sub continent Bangal did not experience same cultural influence as areas that noe make Pakistan did. Their culture evolved their own way but different.
    Out of 4 major lanuages in Pakistan, Punjabi and Sindhi are languages of Subcontinent where as Baluchi and Pashto are Iranian languages. Punjab and Sindh being on western edge of Subcontinent got influenced a lot by their neighbors to the west. Before British banned Farsi from Punjab it was a main language in United Punjab. Even Sikh rulers of Punjab used Farsi in their courts. So Farsi/Arabic script for writing Urdu and subsequently Punjabi is quite natural. 60% of Pakistan lives in Punjab, and hence influenced by Farsi/Arabic script of writing.
    Google map of Durrani Empire of Afghanistan. It at one time was almost exactly what Pakistan and Afghanistan are now combined. There were also waves of migrants from neighboring west. Lots of Persians moved to areas that are Pakistan now in 16th century when Savavids started forcibly converting Persians to Shia Islam. So it is just natural to have Persian, Afghan and Arab influence along with Indian/Sub continent influence on language, script, cuisine and family names. That is how cultures evolve and transform. Pakistan is a big cultural mix and we are proud if that. Our neighbors themselves are melting pots of Cultures. A Dravidian South Indian, Portuguese mix Goan, a north Indian from Rajisthan or Punjab, and an Indian who looks like Tibetan or Burmese from from eastern states are all different in culture and language and yet share Indian Nationality. This diversity is to be celebrated not resented. Similarly there are Turkemen, Tajik, Hazara, Pashtoon, Baluch and Uzbek Afghans. Why do people like you get offended when Pakistanis express and exercise their diversity and cultural influences.

    ClueGeek

    “Get rid of Jammat Islami and 99% of terrorism will be gone in days.”

    Taliban did get rid of Jamat Islami when they took over Afghanistan. Was terrorism finished there when Taliban took over???
    When Taliban took over Afghanistan a news paper ran a headline” ISI took away rule of Afghanistan from Jamat Islami and gave it to Jamiat Ulema Islam”

    Would you prefer other religious outfits (such as Taliban) over one that regularly contest elections not only within the party but also at national level, and had parliamentarians both in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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  • sanity
    Jan 22, 2013 - 6:06AM

    @Shameema:
    after independence of bangladesh there were 2million urdu speaking people . bangladesh govt offered citizenship to them , close to 1.5 million accepted bangladesh citizenship. rest 500000 wanted to go to pakistan, after 1973 treaty pakistan promised to take them back but still not fulfilling the promise. bengolis who are in karachi you said they went there after 1947 not after 1972. as at that time 1947 karachi was the capital and source of earnings. these people call themselves pakistani and has pakistani citizenship, if you want to send back them we are ready to exchange with those 1.5 million urdu speakers who are now close to 5 million. ask your govt. Recommend

  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jan 22, 2013 - 9:08AM

    @sanity

    Your figure of 1.5 millions Urdu speaking people accepting Bangladeshi citizenship seems as ridiculous as so called ‘genocide’ of 3 millions bangalis and rape of 300,000 women by a 45,000 odd Pakistani soldiers in East Pakistan :)

    Will you guys ever stop cooking figures which is never gonna be accepted by any sane independent international organization.

    even this so-called ‘International war crime tribunal’ is not being endorsed by UN or any other international organization.

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jan 22, 2013 - 9:11AM

    @Zalmai

    Get knowledge before you post any nonsense, Urdu script is mainly derived from Persian and not Arabic. Urdu is a language which is widely being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

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  • Max
    Jan 22, 2013 - 9:31AM

    @Zalmai: What an asinine thing to say. Banners in Pakistan are always written in Urdu or sometimes English. Would you rather have them written in farsi to comply with your definition of culture. Open your eyes man!

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  • Khyber
    Jan 22, 2013 - 11:14AM

    @Naeem Siddiqui: Dude you do love to lie on face of facts, 93000 Pakistani Army were at least taken as POW by Indian Army, and you very reduced the number to half 45000. Shows how your educational system feed you lies and tactically brainwash every forthcoming generations of Pakistan.
    For your reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladeshi_independence

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jan 22, 2013 - 1:45PM

    @Khyber

    I knew some Wikipedia ‘educated’ will come up with this argument along with a Wikipedia link. :)

    Mr. Hyper Educated! They were 92,000 PoW and not 92,000 Soldiers! Someone needs to teach you the difference between combat Soldiers and PoW. Those 92, 0000 PoW include Civil bureaucrats, civilian staff of military belong to West Pakistan and their families as well, go figure!

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jan 22, 2013 - 2:09PM

    @Khyber

    As per “Fall of Dacca” by Jagjit Singh Aurora here is the combination of PoW in 1971

    56,694 Armed Forces
    12,192 Paramilitary/Police
    rest civilians

    I don’t know about your education system but they certainly feed you to believe on these ridiculous figures of 3,000,000 killing and 300,000 rapes by 56,694 (If take this Indian figure as correct) Armed Forces of Pakistan :)

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  • Razi
    Feb 22, 2013 - 2:42AM

    BD is too much influenced by RAW and Hindus. Dear Muslim Brothers watch out Hindu propoganda; it is trying to divide the Muslims and rule.

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  • Moeen
    Feb 24, 2013 - 1:12AM

    Why so much hatred with each other, open ur eyes Muslims ,

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