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Bangladesh war crime probe chief quits after Islamist claims

world Updated: May 05, 2010 15:07 IST

The lead investigator at Bangladesh's new war crimes tribunal, set up to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, resigned Wednesday, an official said.

Abdul Matin, a former top bureaucrat, submitted his resignation in the wake of allegations by senior officials that he had ties to the country's main Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which sided with Pakistan during the war.

"He resigned citing personal reasons," the home ministry's senior information officer Mohammad Sahenor Miah said.

Matin was named the head of the seven-member investigation team for a special tribunal, set up in March this year, to
prosecute Bangladeshis who sided with Pakistan and committed murder, rape and arson during the war.

Leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami have been accused of both committing and facilitating the murder of freedom fighters and many of the country's intellectuals during the nine-month struggle.

Last month Alauddin Ahmed, an advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accused Matin of being a key activist for the Islamic Chhatra Sangha -- the now defunct student wing of Jamaat.

Matin has vigorously denied being a member of the student wing, saying that he was neither a freedom fighter nor an activist for any group which opposed the liberation struggle in 1971.

Bangladesh was part of Pakistan until an independence campaign, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, saw the country achieve independence, after a bloody war that the government claims killed three million people.

Rahman, the father of current prime minister Hasina, had planned to put alleged war criminals on trial before his assassination in a 1975 coup, which Hasina claims was masterminded by war criminals.

At least 11,000 detained war crime suspects were set free by the post-coup government, and Bangladesh has since struggled to come to terms with its bloody birth and the break-up of the subcontinent's Muslim homeland.

A private local organisation that has investigated the conflict has identified 1,775 people, including Pakistani generals and local Islamists allied with Pakistan, as being complicit in the atrocities.