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Dhaka Tribune

Extradition of Mueen, Ashraf still a far cry

Families urge government for strong diplomatic move to bring back masterminds

Update : 13 Dec 2022, 09:52 PM

The government is preparing the draft of a mutual legal assistance request to the UK government in an attempt to bring back notorious al-Badr leader Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin to Bangladesh to implement the verdict pronounced against him for the massacre of intellectuals at the end of the Liberation War.

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said he had requested the British High Commissioner to extradite Mueen to Bangladesh. “But since the government has changed, Bangladesh is making a draft proposal for the British government. It will be sent through the Home Ministry,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

Former leader of Jamaat's student wing Mueen and Ashrafuzzaman Khan, "operation-in-charge" and "chief executor" of al-Badr (local collaborator of the Pakistani occupation army), played the central role behind the killings of intellectuals of the country, mainly the teachers, physicians, journalists, and writers. They both were given the death penalty by the International Crimes Tribunal in 2013. Ashraf is believed to be hiding in the US.

Home Ministry officials say both the war criminals are residing in countries that do not support capital punishment.

The officials have confirmed that the US and the UK will not allow the 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.

Renowned film-maker and Dhaka University teacher 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.

“We are optimistic about bringing them back because the UK's former Home Secretary Priti Sushil Patel told us they are positive about sending back the criminals who have been convicted in Bangladesh,” Anisul said.

After sending the formal request, the minister said the government would continue the bilateral discussions to bring back the convict. “In a nutshell, we are trying our best to get the criminals back to execute the verdict.”

Families want quick efforts

Nine years after the verdict, the two war criminals are still fugitives in the eyes of the law. Blaming the government's sloth in this regard, family members of the slain intellectuals demanded a speedy move and transparency in the process.

Born in Feni, Mueen later became a central leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the 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 emerged as a Muslim leader in the UK and took citizenship there. He served as the vice chairman of East London Mosque, London Muslim Centre and director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision at the National Health Service in the UK.

In December 2017, the 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 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 had launched an appeal against the Interpol red notice, added the British newspaper.

Ashraf in US

Born in Gopalganj, Chhatra Sangha central leader Ashrafuzzaman was given the task of leading the al-Badr in Dhaka during the war. He was the commander of al-Badr's Gazi Salahuddin Company, according to the tribunal's prosecution.

Following liberation, he first fled to Pakistan, where he worked for a while before moving to the United States. He later managed to become a US citizen and is a known face among South Asian Muslim communities.

Ashraf'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 during the early hours of December 14, 1971.

Multidimensional effort stressed

The Interpol website features the photos, names, age, and nationality of Ashraf and Mueen in its red list of wanted persons. However, the extradition process has remained in the dark.

Noting that diplomatic efforts alone are not enough, the families of the martyred intellectuals and campaigners demanded that the government initiate multidimensional efforts to expedite the extradition of the killers.

Asif Munier, son of Prof Munier Chowdhury, said the families of the martyred intellectuals had already discharged their responsibilities and conveyed full support during the trial stage.

"But the extradition of the criminals and implementation of their death penalty require strong political will of and diplomatic move by the government,” he added.

Citing his own sources, Asif, who also testified against the al-Badr leaders in the court, claimed that no official request had been made to the UK and the US governments for their extradition.

Projonmo '71, an organisation of the children of the martyrs of the Liberation War, submitted a memorandum to the British High Commission in Dhaka seeking the next steps, he added.

" The government must proceed with the process and show us sincerity to bring some comfort to the families, instead of making only promises," he said.

Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, son of martyred intellectual Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, said the government had long been discussing the extradition of the two criminals, but it was high time to make a formal move.

“We wrote different articles and issued requests to different authorities from Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, but no authorities made any formal move,” he said. 

"I am surprised… Time is running out, but we still have opportunities. The trial of the duo and the verdict will lose value if we cannot ensure their punishment," said Tanvir.

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