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Bangladesh war crimes judge resigns

Source : AP
Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 14:00 hrs

The presiding judge of a Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his conduct.

Mohammed Nizamul Huq cited personal reasons and said he had sent a resignation letter to the law ministry.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said he had received the resignation, but gave no further details.

The resignation came after criticism of Huq's Skype and email conversations with a Belgium-based Bangladeshi lawyer, Ahmed Ziauddin, about the workings of the war crimes tribunal.

The tribunal is trying 10 opposition politicians on charges of arson, rape and other atrocities committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Bangladesh says that during the nine-month war, Pakistani troops, aided by their local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped about 200,000 women.

The conversations came to light in an article published Saturday by The Economist magazine. The tribunal accused the publication of obtaining them though hacking, and demanded that they be returned to it without being published.

The Economist did not directly address the allegation of hacking, but said it was in possession of conversations and documents that raised serious questions about the workings of the tribunal. It did not provide details of their content.

The publication rejected the tribunal's demand that the materials be returned, saying they are confidential and "we are bound by law and the British press's Code of Conduct not to reveal such information except in matters of the most serious public interest."

Huq has headed the tribunal since it was formed in 2010.

Most of those on trial belong to the Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, which in 1971 campaigned against Bangladesh's war of separation from Pakistan. The party stands accused of supporting or in some cases taking part in atrocities committed by Pakistani troops. If convicted the defendants could be hanged.

International human rights groups have called for fair and impartial proceedings and raised questions about how the tribunal is being conducted.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has complained about flaws in the tribunal and expressed concern about a police raid on defense lawyers and the disappearance of a witness at the courthouse gates who reportedly had been preparing to testify for the defense.




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