Bangladesh finds UK and US accused guilty of war crimes

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin has been sentenced to death

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A UK Muslim leader and a US citizen have been sentenced to death over crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.

UK-Bangladeshi Muslim community leader Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khanwas were being tried in absentia by a special tribunal in Bangladesh.

They were found guilty on 11 charges relating to the abduction and killing of 18 independence supporters.

Verdicts in similar cases have sparked violent reactions in Bangladesh.

The proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal have come under criticism from several rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has described the trials as flawed.

'Encouraged killings'

Prosecutors said Mueen-Uddin was a member of the al-Badr militia group which fought alongside the Pakistani army, against independence for what was then East Pakistan, later Bangladesh.

They said he was involved in the killing of pro-independence activists, including academics and journalists, in the final days of the war.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Prince Charles in 2003 Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin met Prince Charles at an Islamic Foundation event in Leicestershire in 2003

"They encouraged, they gave moral support to and participated in the killing of 18 intellectuals," judge Mujibur Rahman Mia told a packed court in Dhaka, reported the AFP news agency.

Later senior judge Obaidul Hassan told the court: "Justice will not be done if they are not awarded capital punishment," AFP said.

Mueen-Uddin, who lives in London, and Khan, a New York resident, both originally come from Bangladesh.

The tribunal's attempts to get them into the dock failed. They denied the charges against them, which their lawyers have described as politicised.

Their trial was completed within just over three months - largely because the tribunal-appointed defence lawyers did not have the co-operation of the families of the accused, reported Bangladesh's Daily Star.

The lawyers could not even get one defence witness to testify whereas the prosecution called 25, it said.

The court's previous judgements include death sentences for former and current senior leaders of Bangladesh's main Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

More than 100 people have died since January in violent protests set off by those verdicts handed down by the International Crimes Tribunal.

It was set up in 2010 by the current Awami League-led government to try alleged local collaborators of the Pakistani army during the war of independence, when three million people died, according to official figures.

But opposition parties have accused it of pursuing a political vendetta against its opponents.

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