Muslim leader sentenced to death
A UK-based Muslim leader has been sentenced to death for war crimes after a "farcical" trial, his lawyer said today.
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who lives in London, was sentenced in his absence at a special war crimes tribunal in his home country of Bangladesh. He was found guilty of abducting and murdering 18 people including nine university teachers, six journalists and three physicians in December 1971, during the country's fight for independence against Pakistan.
His lawyer Toby Cadman said: "I would like to say I am shocked and appalled but this is pretty consistent with the way these trials have been managed over the past two years.
"There have been very bold statements by the prosecution and the (Bangladeshi) government about seeking his return so he can be executed, but no British court is ever going to send him back because of the death penalty and the fair trial concerns that have been raised.
"Receiving the death sentence after such a farcical trial is very difficult for him to deal with. If there was a credible process, he would have submitted himself to trial."
He called for the international community to do more, following on from a letter issued by Lord Carlile and signed by eight members of the House of Lords and leading international lawyers, asking William Hague to intervene because of concerns over the war crimes tribunal process.
Mr Cadman said: "My concern is that I don't know what else needs to happen for the international community to wake up to how serious this is."
Mueen-Uddin did not wish to comment on the case himself. But in a statement issued in May when he received a summons to appear at the tribunal, Mueen-Uddin said he rejected "each and every charge" against him.
The statement, on his website, said he had no confidence in receiving a fair hearing, adding that the process in Bangladesh would be "neither open nor fair".
He added: "For the record, let me state clearly where I stand on the events of 1971. I was a journalist at the time, and yes, I supported the unity of Pakistan. However, supporting the unity of a sovereign nation is one thing, getting involved in crimes is not what I have taken part in any way, shape or form.
"While I remain interested in events in Bangladesh, I have for the last forty years concentrated my efforts in community work here in the United Kingdom. This includes supporting the welfare of British Bangladeshis, and the lives of fellow Britons. The UK has been my home and has been so for my children."
Neither the Home Office nor Scotland Yard could confirm if an extradition request had been made for Mueen-Uddin.. However, the Home Office does not extradite if the person faces the death penalty, unless the Home Secretary has been assured that the death penalty will not be imposed.
A Home Office spokesman said: "As a matter of long standing policy and practice the UK will neither confirm nor deny whether an extradition request has been made or received until such time as a person is arrested in relation to that request."
Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who is currently in New York, was also convicted at the same tribunal as Mueen-Uddin. Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators killed three million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.
Mueen-Uddin and Khan were members of Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami during the 1971 war, the Associated Press reported. The party is allied with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of current prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Sheikh Hasina formed a special tribunal in 2010 to try war crimes suspects.
According to Mueen-Uddin's website, he was director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the NHS and has also been chairman of the multi-faith group for healthcare chaplaincy.
It says he is married and lives in London, having begun his career as a journalist in Bangladesh after studying at the University of Dhaka.
He helped set up the Muslim Council of Britain and is former deputy director of the Islamic Foundation. Mueen-Uddin also met the Prince of Wales during a visit to the Markfield Islamic Foundation in January 2003.
His other involvements include having been the chairman of Muslim Aid and vice chairman of the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, and he has also served on the board of housing associations, according to the website.
Mr Cadman said the Government of Bangladesh had failed to contact Mueen-Uddin's legal team and tried him without attempting extradition, accusing them of seeking a "sensationalist victory".
He added: "The trial process has been shown to be nothing short of a political show trial.
"What is clear from a number of damning disclosures by the international community and the media is the overwhelming evidence that reveals serious judicial and prosecutorial misconduct and the collusion of the government with members of the judiciary and prosecution.
"I am not at all surprised by the verdict that has been passed today by an institution that has lost all credibility. We reject each and every charge levelled against Mr Mueen-Uddin. This is coming from a body that has been accused of gross irregularity and misconduct by human rights groups, notable figures and institutions around the world.
"The system in Bangladesh is so far below even the minimum standards of fairness that it does not deserve to be called a judicial process. It is not an international tribunal. There is nothing remotely international about its practice.
"There are also serious questions raised as to whether it constitutes a national judicial institution, as it sits outside of the law - seemingly in a black hole. It has become a travesty of justice that is writing a very dark chapter in Bangladesh's short history."