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Sentenced to Death in Bangladesh, a War Criminal Remains Free in New York

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Members of the Bangladeshi Rapid Action Battalion outside the International Crimes Tribunal court in Dhaka on November 3 (STR/AFP/Getty)

This week, a war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced two men to death for the killings of 18 people during the country's war of independence from Pakistan, in 1971.

One of the men, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, is a long-time resident of New York. He's been an active member of the Islamic Circle of North America, and served as an imam in Jamaica, Queens.

Another Bangladeshi New Yorker, Ali Hasan Kibria, said he once stepped into Khan's mosque and was so shocked to see Khan there that he walked out, without praying.

"Because this is against my morals."

Kibria was 12 in 1971, when Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan, fought for independence. His family fled the country for five months, fearful for their lives. The crackdown by the Pakistani military and various militias resulted in an estimated 3 million deaths, as well as a brutal campaign of genocidal rape against hundreds of thousands of women.  Echoing the war tribunal's claims, Kibria said Khan was responsible for numerous deaths -- in some instances, he and an accomplice would sneak into the homes of reporters, academics and other intellectuals at night, and 'disappear' them. 

"[In] 1971, forty years ago, he killed so many people. Now he doesn't say sorry, or he doesn't make it clear that he did the wrong thing."

Some of the bodies of the victims Khan was convicted of murdering were recovered, but others weren't. Kibria is one of several Bangladeshis in New York who have fought to bring Khan to justice. Dr. Pradip Kar says the death sentence against Khan confirms suspicions that Khan lied about his background during his naturalization process, and even though Kar says Khan is a US citizen, he believes he should be deported.

"As I know, the US has a law. Those that are lying during the immigration process, he cannot stay here. His citizenship should be cancelled."

But not everyone agrees. Naeem Baig is the president of the Islamic Circle of North America and questions the legitimacy of the war tribunal proceedings. He said the recent trials in Bangladesh have been politically motivated. And he cited the findings of Human Rights Watch, which claimed violations of fair trials standards. The group also noted that at least 47 suspects have died in custody. Other defendants have had limited access to lawyers and little knowledge of the charges and evidence against them.

"We believe that in order to have proper justice, Bangladesh should apply all international standards for these war crime tribunals," said Baig.

He also said Khan has been a model citizen with a long record of public service.

"His service to the Muslim community and his relationship with people of all faiths and backgrounds is very well known in the community. He's a man who dedicated his life to the community. That's what we know of Imam Khan."

Baig said that Khan is currently out of the US on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Meanwhile, Khan's opponents here plan to initiate a campaign for his deportation to Bangladesh.

Editors:

Karen Frillmann

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Comments [4]

Enayet Mowla from United States

I was a resident of the port city of Chittagong when the war broke out and I got involved in the 1971 war. Both my wife and myself were hunters and knew how to handle firearms People of the neighbourhood approached us to help and train them so that they can fight for the defense of the city, if attacked. When we agreed, the boys went around and collected a huge number of guns and kept those in my house. Training continued but before long war broke out. My house was also attacked one day whenfour members of my family were shot. Both me and my wife went underground.

Later my house became the regional HQ of the guerillas. Contact was made through them with the command in India. I did what I could shifting my hideout from place to place. Ultimately I supervised the attack of attack on the Chittagong port and later directed aerial aerial bombing.

I have written a book in English titled "BIRTH OF A NATION" on my experiences during the war. In case anybody is interested he can contact MOFIDUL HOQUE, Secretary, Liberation War Museum & Publisher, SHAHITYA PROKASH in Dhaka Bangladesh, Phone No.9355058. E Mail - mofidul_hoque@yahoo.com

Nov. 14 2013 12:33 PM
Sayem Alvee

ICNA president lied about ICT process and misquoted Human Rights Watch report. 47 death in custody is a overall number of people died in Bangladesh including natoural death and couple of inmate violences.
None, 0 people died in Custody in reference to the War crimes Tribunal named "Internation Crimes Tribunal"
Ashraffuzaman Khan has no known or openly declared Political affiliation and hence describing ICT politically motivated is nothing but shrill nonsense.
I would urge the Muslim Community as well as every concerned citizen of US to help to bring this convicted War Criminal to Justice.
He has been convicted in direct involvement with murder at first degree 18 individuals. 9 of them were Professors of Dhaka University, 6 eminent Journalists and 3 brilliant Physicians.
I hope US doesn't want to become a Safe Heaven for murderers and War Criminals.

Nov. 07 2013 03:49 AM
Arkka from USA

Mr. Naeem Baig, not sure what is your ethnic background. Being a Bangladeshi, I know my history, history written by the price of blood of my brothers and sisters. I hope you will read this --- "After Liberation, Ashrafuzzaman's personal diary was recovered from his residence, 350 Nakhal Para. Two pages of his diary registered names and residential addresses of 19 teachers as well as the name of the medical officer of Dhaka University. Of those 20 persons, 8 were missing on December 14: Munier Chowdhury (Bengali), Dr. Abul Khair (History), Ghiasuddin Ahmed (History), Rashidul Hasan (English), Dr. Faizul Mohi (IE R) and Dr. Murtaza (Medical Officer).
Mofizuddin confessed that Ashrafuzzaman himself shot all of them. As per Mofizuddin's description, the decomposed bodies of those unfortunate teachers were recovered from the swamps of Rayer Bazar and the mass grave at Shiyal Bari at Mirpur. There were also other names in the diary including Dr. Wakil Ahmed (Bengali), Dr. Nilima Ibrahim (Bengali), Dr. Latif (IE R), Dr. Maniruzzaman (Geography), K M Saaduddin (Sociology), AMM Shahidullah (Math), Dr. Sirajul Islam (Islamic History), Dr. Akhtar Ahmed (Education), Zahirul Huq (Psychology), Ahsanul Huq (English), Serajul Islam Chowdbury (English), and Kabir Chowdhury (English). Another page of his diary recorded the names of 16 collaborating teachers of Dhaka university. Apart from that there were also names of Chowdbury Moinuddin, the chief of operation for elimination of the intelligentsia, and Shawkat Imran, a member of the central Al-Badr command, and the head of Dhaka Al-Badr forces.
The diary also contained names and addresses of several other prominent Bengalis. All of them lost their lives at the hands of Al-Badr forces. On a small piece of paper the name of the member finance of the Pakistan Jute Board, Abdul Khalek, was written down. On December 9, 1971, the Al-Badr forces kidnapped Mr. Khalek from his office. They demanded Taka 10,000 as ransom. They saw Mrs. Khalek for ransom money. But at that time she was unable to pay the kidnappers more than 450 taka. She promised that she would give them the rest of the money later, and begged them her husband's life. But Mr. Khalek never came back.
Ashrafuzzaman has also been implicated in the murder of some journalists. It was Ashrafuzzaman who kidnapped the shift-in- charge of the Purbadesh, and the literary editor, Mr. Golam Mustafa."
Now lets see what people say who lost their loved ones by this war criminal:
http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/verdict-brings-solace/

Nov. 06 2013 09:46 PM
Moses kestenbaum ODA

Khan is a mther fck criminal mass murder who commited genocide .

Nov. 05 2013 11:54 PM

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