The International Crimes Tribunal 2 on Thursday issued arrest warrant against one Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and one Asrafuz Zaman Khan for their involvement in the killing of18 intellectuals six days before independence.
Chowdhury Mueen UddinA citizen of UK, the vice-chair of East London Mosque and Treasurer of Muslim Aid – was involved in war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence. In March 1971, Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, a journalist of the Daily Purbodesh, was an active member of the Islami Chaatra Sangha (ICS) – the student wing of the Jammat-e-Islami that actively opposed Bangladesh Liberation War and aided the Pakistani military. In August 1971, the Jamaat-e-Islami, according to its own newspaper the Daily Sangram, set up the Al-Badr Squad comprised of ICS members. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin as the leader of Al-Badr was involved in at least two disappearances and killings, and one attempted disappearance, including abduction and disappearance of Mofazzal Haider Chaudhury, Dhaka University Professor of Bangla Department, and Serajuddin Hossain, Journalist. It is known that Mueen Uddin was also involved in attempting to abduct BBC journalist Ataus Samad. Farida Banu, younger sister of Prof Giasuddin Ahmed, filed a case in this connection with Ramna Police Station on September 24, 1997 against two Al-Badr cadres – Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman – for killing her brother on December 14 in 1971(10). The investigation report revealed that Al-Badr members Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman picked up Giasuddin from Muhsin Hall premises, blindfolded him and whisked him in a microbus to an undisclosed location. He never came back. Newspaper reported immediately after the intellectual killings naming Mueen Uddin as the prime suspect based on confessions by captured Al-Badr leaders. Bangladesh Observer reported on December 29th, 1971 that “Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, a member of the banned fanatic Jamaat-e-Islami, was the “operation-in-charge” for the intellectuals killing. New York Times reports on January 2, 1972 that Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was a well-mannered and intelligent young man, also the head of a secret, commando-like organisation Al-Badar that killed hundreds of prominent Bangalee professors, doctors, lawyers and journalists. Their goal was to wipe out all Bangalee intellectuals who advocated independence from Pakistan and the creation of a secular, non Moslem state.” Soon after the war, Mueen Uddin’s involvement in the intellectual killings came to light and several newspapers including the New York Times published articles on his alleged involvement in the intellectuals’ killing. Mueen Uddin, however, managed to flee to the UK to avoid arrest. He along with other Jamaat members set up Dawatul Islam, the UK front of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Following a split amongst the leadership of Dawatul Islam, Mueen Uddin raised another Islamic Forum Europe which continues to be the UK front of the Jamaat-e-Islami. As recently as November 2007 Islamic Forum Europe invited the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, Matiur Rahman Nizami, another alleged war criminal, from Bangladesh to their events as a special guest. Mueen Uddin’s base was, however, East London Mosque – and he became its vice chairman in the 1990s and still holds the post. Mueen Uddin was involved with the Muslim Aid Uk and Leicester-based Islamic Foundation. He was the Special Editor of Weekly Dawat. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin’s rehabilitation continued as the UK government decided to engage with the Muslim Council of Britain in the name of engaging with Muslims. In 2003, Prince Charles visited Islamic Foundation headed by Mueen Uddin.
During the Liberation War, both of them were active leaders of al-Badr which the assisted the Pakistani occupational army in committing atrocities and crimes against humanity.
Among the 18 intellectuals, nine were teachers of Dhaka University, six were journalists and three were doctors, according to the probe report of the prosecution.
The tribunal, headed by Justice Obaidul Hasan, also asked the law enforcement agencies to submit a progress report on arresting Mueen and Asrafuz by May 12 and also set that date for further procedure of the case.
Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam are the two other judges of the tribunal.
The tribunal, popularly known as the ‘war crimes tribunal’, was instituted for the trial of war crimes suspects from the 1971 Liberation War.
According to the prosecution submission, MueenUddin was the “operation-in-charge” while Asrafuz played the role of “chief executor” of the al-Badr.
The two, who now reside in London and New York, were jointly involved in the killings.
The victims are Serajuddin Hossain, Syed Najmul Haque, Golam Mostafa, Nizam Uddin Ahmed, Selina Pervin and Shahidullah Kaiser, Giasuddin Ahmed, Rashidul Hasan, Anwar Pasha, Abul Khayer, Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya, Sirajul Haque Khan, Faizul Mahi, Munier Chowdhury, Mofazzal Haidar Choudhury, Abdul Alim Chowdhury, Fazle Rabbi and Mohammad Mortuza.
The prosecution brought 16 charges against the duo under the section 3(2) of the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973.
Section 3(2) of the act deals with the allegations such as crimes against humanity and peace, genocide, killing members of the group and rape.
The prosecution also pointed out post-liberation news where it was mentioned that, “these persons were ‘most wanted’ for killing intellectuals by that time.” On April 25, the prosecution had submitted the formal charges against the duo.
The prosecution probe report said both of them “directly took part” in the killing of 18 intellectuals between December 10 -15.
Ashrafuzzaman KhanAshrafuzzaman Khan, an al-Badr commander, compiled a list of Bangalee intellectuals to be put to death. The plan was to create an intellectual vacuum in post-liberation Bangladesh to thwart the rebuilding of the country. It was Pakistan’s parting kick to Bangladesh, so to speak. Many of the Bangalee intellectuals listed by Ashrafuzzaman Khan were taken out of their homes at the dead of night in the first half of that eventful December month in 1971. Needless to say, none of them lived to see the light of day. After liberation, Ashrafuzzaman Khan fled, but in his haste he left behind a crucial piece of evidence for recovery by investigators. They found Ashrafuzzaman Khan’s diary, which contained the list of the targeted intellectuals in his own handwriting. It was indeed a gruesome find that shocked the people of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Ashrafuzzaman had already fled the country by the time the search began for his arrest. Today, Ashrafuzzaman Khan leads an active life in New York. He is currently the President of the Islamic Circle of North America. Ashrafuzzaman Khan was one of the chief Al-Badr executioners. It has been proved beyond doubt that he himself shot to death seven Dhaka University teachers at the killing field in Mirpur. The list in Ashrafuzzaman’s personal diary, recovered from his residence at 350 Nakhal Para, included the names of 19 DU teachers. Among these names were Munier Chowdhury (Bengali), Dr. Abul Khair (History), Ghiasuddin Ahmed (History), Rashidul Hasan (English), Dr. Faizul Mohi (I. E. R) and Dr. Munaza (Medical Officer). Ashrafuzzaman shot these people by his own hand. The decomposed bodies of these unfortunate teachers were recovered from the marshes of Rayer Bazar and the mass grave at Shiyal Bari in Mirpur. On another page of the diary were the names of 16 collaborating teachers of the university. Along with these were the names of Chowdhury Moinuddin, the man in charge of the operation to kill intellectuals, and Showkat Imran, a member of the central al-Badr command and the head of the Al-Badr forces in Dhaka. Apart from the names of the slain intellectuals, the diary also contained the names and addresses of several other Bangalees. All of them lost their lives at the hands of Al-Badr. Ashrafuzzaman has also been implicated in the murder of some journalists. It was Ashrafuzzaman who kidnapped the shift-in-charge of the Purbodesh, and the literary editor, ANM Gholam Mustafa. Ashrafuzzaman Khan was a member of the central committee of the Islami Chhatra Sangha.
The prosecution submitted the charge jointly against Mueen and Asrafuz and termed it “joint criminal liability” and submitted in the tribunal thatthe duo had taken part in the same offences since their target was the same.
A few days before the Pakistan army surrendered, more than a dozen Bangladeshi professionals were abducted from different parts of Dhaka, the probe report stated.
The report also said that while a number of the bodies of the abducted persons were later found in Rayerbazar in Dhaka, others were never found. The ICT agency in its report directly linked Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan with the atrocities and brought five formal charges against them including complicity, abduction, and murder.
In 1971, the al-Badr militia, of which the two accused were members, was formed with Islami Chhatra Sangha, the report continued.
To create a vacuum in the country’s intellectual arena, the Pakistan army and its local collaborators killed several noted scholars and intellectuals of the country. In this case, they were: Prof Giasuddin Ahmed, Prof Rashedul Hassan, Prof Anwar Pasha, Prof Abul Khayer, Prof Santosh Bhattacharya, Prof Sirajul Islam, Prof Faizul Mahi, Prof Munir Chowdhury, Prof Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Dr Md Murtoza, Dr Abdul Alim Chowdhury, Dr Fazle Rabbi and journalists Sirajul Hossain, Syed Nazmul Huq, ANM Golam Mostofa, Nizamuddin Islam, Selina Parvin and Shaidullah Kaiser.
“Twenty-six years after liberation, the first case in connection with the killing of intellectuals was filed by Prof Giasuddin’s sister. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan were accused in that case too,” said investigation officer (IO) Ataur Rahman.
In 2002, the police sought permission to transfer the case from the penal code to ICT Act. Unfortunately, the proceedings stopped there, Ataur said. The investigation against the duo was re-opened in 2011.
“Case proceedings are going on in full swing. The government has to take initiatives to repatriate them. We have nothing to do. Like the case against Abul Kalam Azad, this case will also go smoothly if the accused remain absent,” said the chief prosecutor Golam Arif Tipu.
Chowdhury Mueen Uddin has been living in London, and Ashrafuzzaman Khan in New York. The prosecution said repatriating them would be the main challenge.