Dhaka, Feb 6 (IANS) The Jamaat-e-Islami has engaged three British legal experts to defend its top leaders accused of committing “war crimes” during Bangladesh’s liberation struggle of 1971.
Steven Kay, Toby Cadman and John Cammegh are advising on their defence to be put up before the International War Crimes Tribunal, a three-judge panel named by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government expected to begin the trial shortly.
Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mojahid, senior assistant secretary general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Molla are in detention on charges of killing civilians during the 1971 war.
Media reports say Ghulam Azam, who served as Jamaat’s chief from 1969 (when Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan) till 2000, may also be brought to trial.
The British lawyers have past credentials of having been part of similar trials elsewhere.
Steven was appointed as the court-assigned defence counsel for former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who faced charges of genocide in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The trial against Milosevic ended without any verdict as he died in prison.
Toby was a prosecution lawyer in the Bosnia Tribunal for war crimes and John was defence counsel in the Special Court of Sierra Leone for crimes committed during the civil war (1991-2001) in that country.
Jamaat sources said they plan to appoint all foreign lawyers from Britain. The sources did not mention the budget for these hires.
Bangladesh says three million people were killed and over 200,000 women raped by the Pakistani military and their Islamist collaborators during the 1971 civil war that led to the birth of Bangladesh.