Asia

Bangladesh Islamist leader Ghulam Azam charged

Bangladeshi police officers escort Ghulam Azam to jail in Dhaka
Image caption Mr Azam is one of the most high profile Jamaat-e-Islami leaders

Bangladeshi Islamist leader Ghulam Azam has been charged by a special tribunal with war crimes allegedly carried out during the country's 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Azam, 89, of committing crimes, including murder and torture, during the nine-month war.

Mr Azam denies the charges, arguing that they are politically motivated.

He is the most high profile Islamist leader to have been charged by the tribunal since it was set up in 2010.

The International Crimes Tribunal was set up by the Awami League-led government to try those Bangladeshis accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who were trying to stop East Pakistan from becoming an independent country.

The charges against Mr Azam, who was the leader of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami party, include conspiracy, planning to commit crime, murder and torture.

Mr Azam's trial will start on 5 June and is expected to go on for months. Eight people from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami are also accused of war crimes.

So far, the special tribunal has indicted three of them. All of them deny the charges and the opposition leaders accuse the government of carrying out a political vendetta.

Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed, although independent researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.

Human rights groups have urged the government to ensure the trials are carried out in accordance with international standards.

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