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Bangladesh tribunal charges war crimes suspect

A war crimes tribunal set up to investigate war crimes committed during the independence struggle in Bangladesh has charged its first suspect.

Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a senior leader of the Jamat-e-Islami party, has been charged with war crimes including mass murder, rape, looting and forcibly converting Hindus.

"The court has framed charges on 20 counts including crimes against humanity and genocide against Mr Sayedee," Mohammad Shahinur Islam, registrar of the International Crimes Tribunal, told the BBC.
"He pleaded not guilty. He claimed all those allegations were false.”

Mr Sayedee’s party has slammed the tribunal and alleged that the charges are politically motivated.

Human rights organizations have called on the Bangladeshi government to ensure the trials are fair and impartial.

According to Human Rights Watch, the proceedings fall short of international standards, even after amendments were made earlier this year to address the shortcomings.

"We want these trials to succeed in bringing the people responsible for the horrific crimes of 1971 to justice," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "While the amendments are a significant improvement, key problems still need to be fixed to ensure fair trials and avoid unnecessarily lengthy appeals."

Pakistani troops, aided by sympathetic locals, are accused of unleashing widespread violence, killing over 3 million people and raping more than 200,000 women during the 9-month Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971.

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