Bangladesh arrests media doyen for 1971 crimes

Dhaka: Bangladesh police today arrested Jamaat-e-Islami leader and media doyen Mir Kashem Ali for his suspected role in perpetrating crimes against humanity during the country`s 1971 liberation war. Dhaka metropolitan police`s detective wing chief Masudur Rahman said Ali was arrested from the office of the Naya Diganta newspaper, a concern of the Diganta Media Corporation that he heads.

"He was arrested from his Motijeel office," a police spokesman told PTI. The development came two hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 issued the warrant against Ali, asking police to ensure his appearance before the court within 24 hours of his arrest. "Produce him in 24 hours after his arrest before the tribunal," chairman of the three-member panel Justice Nizamul Haque, chairman of the tribunal said issuing the warrant against Ali.

The Diganta Media Corporation also runs a television channel. The order came on a prosecution plea seeking him to be kept in confinement immediately fearing he could influence the trial process which is now underway to expose to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the liberation war being media doyen. Prosecution lawyer Rana Dasgupta filed the petition saying Ali was a stalwart of notorious Al Badr, a vital auxiliary force of the Pakistani troops.

The warrant came months after another fellow war crime suspect Abul Kalam Azad Bacchu fled the country after orders were issued for his arrest, forcing Bangladesh to seek Interpol assistance to track him down. State Minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku earlier said directives were issued asking police and other security agencies to comply with the tribunal order immediately to arrest Ali.

Eight high-profile war crime suspects have been detained so far to face trial crimes against humanity since Bangladesh constituted the tribunal in March last year along with the special investigation agency and a prosecution cell in line with the election pledges of the ruling Awami League to expose to trial the war criminals.

If proved guilty the accused could be sentenced to death under the law while the trial process began two years ago amid intensified public demands and electoral pledges of the ruling Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Officially, three million people were killed in the war by the Pakistani army and their Bengali-speaking collaborators during the 1971 liberation war.