ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
Updated: June 24, 2013 10:04 PM GMT
Demonstrators in Dhaka demand the death penalty for those found guilty. Picture: Stephen Uttom
A Bangladeshi war crimes court has ordered the trial in absentia of a man based in Britain for the murder of 19 prominent intellectuals during the country’s liberation war of 1971.
The International Crimes Tribunal has charged Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin with 11 crimes against humanity including murder, confinement, abduction and torture.
It is alleged that he was a student member of a militia group which is blamed for the murder of around 200 Bengali intellectuals. He fled the country as the war ended.
In Britain, Mueen-Uddin has held senior positions in Islamic organizations and is a founding member of Muslim Council of Britain, the largest Muslim group in the UK.
"I am happy to respond to these charges in an open and fair court of law that is recognized by the international community," he told the BBC last week. "But I have little faith that the current process in Bangladesh is open or just."
It is thought unlikely that he will be returned to Bangladesh, given the UK’s reluctance to accommodate extradition requests if a death penalty is possible.
A second man, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who will be tried in absentia for the same crimes, is now believed to be in Queens, New York.
Catholic rights activist Rosaline Costa says charging two more people for war crimes in absentia makes no sense.
“The government started war crimes trials because of public pressure. Now it is trying to use it for political gain, even charging people who might not be brought back to the country,” she said.