TRT World – the news website of Turkey’s national broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation – published a report on May 1 terming Bangladesh a “rogue state,” and criticising the government for trying and executing war criminals linked to Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and arrests of its supporters.
The report titled “Bangladesh’s rogue state: 10 things to know” says the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh is not international enough and accuses the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, of using the tribunal for political gains.
The report also lists police brutality, arbitrary arrests, silencing the opposition and enforced disappearances as being among the present government’s offences. It quotes the daughter of executed war criminal Mir Quasem Ali, Sumaiya Rabeya, to claim that women are raped in the custody of Bangladesh police.
The Bangladesh government has not given any official reaction to the Turkish government’s concerns portrayed in the report, which includes condemnations by sons and daughters of executed war criminals.
The report was published ahead of the apex court’s hearing on the government’s appeal against the life sentence to war criminal Delawar Hossain Sayedee – the last remaining influential leader of Jamaat.
The Appellate Division upheld its previous judgement (imprisonment till death), also rejecting Sayedee’s petition seeking acquittal.
In the near future, the apex court is likely to begin appeal hearing in the cases of two other senior Jamaat leaders – ATM Azhar and AKM Yusuf. Jamaat’s petition against the cancellation of its party registration is also pending with the top court.
While the Bangladesh government continues to execute the verdicts of the war crimes tribunals, children of the top war criminals linked to Jamaat-e-Islami and its local leaders are campaigning against the trial process at home and abroad – thanks to pro-Islamist governments in Turkey and Pakistan.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government of Newaz Sharif in Pakistan have expressed concerns over the trials on several occasions since 2010, branding them as their martyrs, and blaming the ruling Awami League for political vengeance to wipe out its opposition.
The Pakistan government has condemned all the executions and war crimes verdicts calling the Jamaat leaders patriots of Pakistan. Its lawmakers proposed resolutions against the executions in parliament while the Foreign Ministry summoned Bangladesh’s high commissioner in Islamabad in protest.
Turkey condemned the execution of Jamaat’s leader Mir Quasem Ali in September last year, when, according to government officials of Bangladesh and Turkey, the bilateral relations had improved after a previous breakdown.
The stance of Turkey and Pakistan has apparently increased confidence among the supporters of Jamaat and its radical student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir at a time when most of the top Jamaat leaders have been hanged or imprisoned by the International Crimes Tribunal formed in 2010.
Even though Jamaat has got a new leadership after the execution of Motiur Rahman Nizami last year, its political activities have remained limited to surprise processions, clandestine meetings on regrouping the grassroots and social media campaigns on contemporary issues linked to religion.
Leading opposition BNP has refused to sever ties with Jamaat and remains mum over the judgements against Jamaat leaders and their executions.
The Bangladesh wing of Pakistan-based Jamaat has close ties to the Turkish ruling party – Justice and Development Party, abbreviated JDP or AK in English. Egypt’s Brotherhood, Turkish AK Party, and Jamaat in Bangladesh and Pakistan want to establish Islamic rule in their own countries, according to the BBC.
Also Read: Govt protests Turkey’s reaction over Quasem’s execution
Turkey’s concerns for Jamaat
Erdogan issued a statement on the eve of Nizami’s execution in May last year, while demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul protested against the hanging of the war criminal. Turkey also recalled its ambassador in Dhaka after Nizami was hanged.
“I condemn the mentality that sentences to death a mujahid, who is over the age of 70 and who we believe has no earthly sin. I think that such proliferation of hatred there, and the ordering of such death sentences despite our repeated initiatives, is neither fair governance nor a democratic mentality,” Erdogan said about Nizami.
He also lashed out at Europe for not speaking out against the execution. “Weren't you against executions? There was no noise [from the EU] because the person who was executed was a Muslim.”
In September last year, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry floated a press release to protest the hanging of top Jamaat financier Mir Quasem Ali for war crimes.
Turkey also reacted strongly after the execution of convicted Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla in December 2013. Erdogan himself telephoned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stop the execution.
After the hanging, Erdogan warned that history would not forgive Bangladesh while his deputy Bekir Bozdag said that justice, human rights and the law had been trampled.
Also Read Nizami execution: Turkey withdraws Bangladesh ambassador
In December 2012, then Turkish president Abdullah Gul wrote to his Bangladeshi counterpart Zillur Rahman, calling on him not to put former Jamaat ameer Ghulam Azam to death if he was found guilty.
Sudden improvement, sudden fall
Despite tension over the war crimes trials, Bangladesh had an export volume of $720 million with Turkey in fiscal 2015 against the import of $158.90m.
“Bilateral trade will exceed $2 billion within short time if cooperation is intensified,” Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said after a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Devrim Ozturk in September last year.
Lauding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, Ozturk said Bangladesh was moving ahead with her dynamic leadership and that Turkey would be beside Bangladesh in this journey.
Ozturk was sent back to Dhaka on August 12 last year, three months after Turkey called back the ambassador to Ankara.
After his return, Ozturk at a press briefing condemned the brutal murder of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and expressed his gratitude to Hasina for her government’s support of the Turkish democracy during the July 15 attempted coup.
He said: “Bangladesh had helped Turkey by expressing its support to Erdogan’s government after the failed coup attempt.”
At another meeting with Bangladesh Ambassador in Ankara M Allama Siddiki held in November last year, Turkish Minister of National Education Ismet Yilmaz described the bilateral relation as warm and traditional.