In a landmark ruling, a court in Dhaka on Monday summoned 35 senior leaders of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and one of ex-premier Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party to face 1971 war crimes charges.
JI and several other right-wing groups had sided with the then Pakistani military junta during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war and the new government led by Sheikh Hasina had promised to pro-actively seek the prosecution of those involved in "war crimes" during the volatile period.
The ninth Additional Judge Court ordered former JI chief Golam Azam, incumbent 'amir' Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid and 32 other leaders of the party and Zia's parliamentary affairs adviser Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury to appear before the court on July 20.
The summons came after a petition filed last year by three lawyers seeking court orders declaring them "war criminals" and barring them from running elections. The court today held a hearing on whether the case should be pursued.
The litigants in the petition said the 36 were "war criminals" according to International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, the relevant law on 1949 Geneva Convention and the Representation of People Order (Amendment) 2008.