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Dhaka Tribune

Families in despair as extradition of Ashraf, Mueen remains only in promises

In 2013, the war crimes tribunal sentenced the Al-Badr leaders to death for the massacre of the nation’s sharpest minds during the 1971 war

Update : 13 Dec 2020, 09:40 PM

With an aim to cripple a nation intellectually, two men carried out a massacre 49 years ago just before the birth of independent Bangladesh.

During the Liberation War in 1971, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan, then "operation in-charge" and "chief executor" respectively of the Al-Badr (local collaborator of Pakistani occupation army) played the central role behind the killings of intellectuals of the country, mainly the teachers, physicians, journalists, and writers.

They were put on trial for their crimes against humanity and a special tribunal in 2013 handed down death penalty to the duo for planning abduction, torture, and murder of intellectuals during the War of Independence.

Nine Dhaka University teachers, six journalists, and three doctors became the victims of their massacre.

Renowned film-maker and Dhaka University Prof Munier Chowdhury, Prof Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, Dr Faizul Mohiuddin, journalists Selina Parvin, Shahidullah Kaiser, and physicians Md Fazle Rabbi and Alim Chowdhury were among the victims.

However, seven years after the verdict, the two war criminals are still fugitives in the eyes of law as they remain untouched.

While the government continues to promise to bring the Al-Badr leaders back, sources at the International Crimes Tribunal confirmed that Mueen is currently living in the United Kingdom and Ashrafuzzaman in the United States.

As the nation mourns the martyred intellectuals today, a lack of visible initiatives by the government to bring back the notorious war criminals delays Bangladesh's due justice.

Blaming the government's sloth in this regard, family members of the slain intellectuals demanded speedy move by the government and transparency in the process to bring the duo back to ensure justice for the families.

Mueen in UK

Born in Feni, Mueen-Uddin later became a central leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, and leader of the notorious militia outfit Al-Badr.

It is widely known that he fled Bangladesh right after December 16, 1971, and developed himself as a Muslim leader in the UK and took citizenship there.

He served as the vice chairman of the East London Mosque, the London Muslim Centre and a director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision at the National Health Service in the UK.

In December 2017, British newspaper The Sun reported that Mueen, one of Interpol's most wanted British fugitives, was leading a luxurious life in London.

The newspaper reported that Mueen was living in a $1,334,260 house in London. He was seen living a normal life in the British capital as he went out shopping and visited the local mosque without any obstruction.

He had even been photographed with Prince Charles at an Islamic event in Leicestershire, reported the newspaper.

Mueen claimed that the cases filed and evidence shown against him in the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka were "rubbish" and that he launched an appeal against the Interpol red notice, added the British newspaper.

Asraf in US

Born in Gopalganj, Islami Chhatra Sangha central leader Ashrafuzzaman was given the task to lead the Al-Badr in Dhaka during the war.

He was the commander of Al-Badr's Gazi Salahuddin Company, according to prosecution.

Following independence, he first fled to Pakistan where he worked for a while before moving to the United States.

He is a known face among the South Asian Muslim communities and is a US citizen.

Ashrafuzzaman's diary, which was recovered after the Liberation War from his Nakhalpara house in Dhaka, contained the plans and a list of targets for the killings that took place during the early hours of December 14, 1971.

Multidimensional effort stressed

Although the government continues to promise that diplomatic moves are underway to bring the two war criminals back for punishment, no visible headway in the process continues to frustrate the families of martyred intellectuals and the campaigners for justice for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war.

The Interpol website features the photo, name, age, and nationality of Ashraf and Mueen in their red list of wanted persons, however, the extradition process remains in dark.

Citing that diplomatic efforts alone are not enough, families of martyred intellectuals and campaigners for justice demanded that the government initiate multidimensional efforts including creating public opinions against the two criminals in the UK and the USA to expedite their extradition.

Home Ministry officials said both the war criminals are residing in such countries that are against the capital punishment.

The officials have confirmed that the US and the UK will not allow extradition of the convicts who are now citizens of these two countries.

Bangladesh also does not have extradition treaties with the US and the UK.

Asif Munier, son of martyred Munier Chowdhury, said the families really want to know what efforts have been taken by the government so far.

"We want to see the letters if sent officially to the government of the two countries from Bangladesh side," said Asif, who also testified against the Al-Badr leaders in the court.

Citing own sources, he claimed that no official request was made to the UK and the US government from Bangladesh for the extradition purpose.

"The court has finished its part and now it is up to the government. The government must proceed with the process, and show us the sincerity to bring some comfort for the families, instead of uttering only promises," he added.

Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, son of martyred intellectual Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, said the government has long been discussing the issue of extradition of two criminals, but time has come to make the move as a formal one.

"Why no diplomatic move has yet been made, that is not clear," he said.

Expressing frustration, Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee President Shahriar Kabir said the laws or direct diplomatic move may have some limitations, but the government, in association with civil society of the UK and the USA, at least can create public opinions in those countries so that residents of the neighbourhood of the two criminals can actually get to know about the crimes they committed in Bangladesh.

"Creating public opinions fall under routine work of the embassies, but those are largely busy with economic diplomacy instead of public diplomacy," he said.

All the three demanded initiatives from the Bangladesh high commission of those two countries to create opinions among people and also speed up the extradition process as without these initiatives, no progress can be made in extraditing the two criminals.

When asked on Saturday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Momen asked this correspondent to speak to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Law Minister Anisul Huq to get an update on extradition of the two war criminals.

However, both the ministers were not available for comments on the issue.

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