Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ghulam Azam trial may cause political instability, says Al Jazeera

The Al Jazeera television has reported that the trial of former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam for crimes against humanity may throw Bangladesh into further political instability.

The observation came in a report the Qatar-based television carried Wednesday. 

In a tone seemingly downplaying the need of the trial, the report says Ghulam Azam is being tried for crimes against humanity committed more than 40 years ago.

“The 89-year-old Azam cannot walk, cannot see, nor can he really hear. Yet he has 10 armed police officers watching him at all times,” reads the report.

Saying that the prosecution of war criminals was part of Sheikh Hasina’s election manifesto, it said the incumbent government is determined to fulfil the pledge.

Quoting officials as saying that three million people died in the nine-month “conflict” in 1971, Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque who sent the dispatch from Dhaka said “the country's war crimes tribunal believes he collaborated with Pakistan's army, orchestrating mass killings during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence with Pakistan”.

The reporter identified Ghulam Azam as “like no other detainee”, adding that he led the Jamaat until 2000.

The Al Jazeera report said a recent hearing by the UN working group on arbitrary detentions concluded the detention of Ghulam Azam and others as “arbitrary and in breach of international law”.

Talking to the TV, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed rejected the accusation.

He said: “This tribunal is not an international war crimes tribunal, this is a domestic tribunal.”

“Those who have been arrested are facing trial. So it’s not an illegal detention,” added Ahmed.

If found guilty Azam will face the death penalty, the report said. 

“Whatever decisions this court (International Crimes Tribunal) comes to, it will have dramatic consequences. It may bring justice to many but at the price of throwing Bangladesh into further political instability,” the reporter concluded.