Former East London Mosque trustee on Bangladesh war crimes charges
PUBLISHED: 17:53 03 May 2013
A former trustee of the East London Mosque has been indicted in Bangladesh for an alleged role in killing 18 people during the 1971 War of Independence.
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin could face extradition on May 12 when his case goes before a War Crimes tribunal in Dhakar, accused of being in the Al-Badr Islamist group which killed pro-independence activists.
But he strongly denies any role in the murders.
Chowdhury arrived in Britain after Bangladesh broke away from West Pakistan in 1971 and was active in the émigré community.
He was involved with the East London Mosque from 1978 as honorary secretary, then Vice Chairman until he stepped down from the Trust in 2009.
But the mosque this week insisted he was no longer connected to the centre in Whitechapel Road.
Spokesman Salman Farsi said: “He hasn’t been a trustee for four years—he is no longer the ‘vice chairman’ as incorrectly stated in some media outlets.”
Chowdhury is currently director of Muslim Spiritual Care in the NHS and a trustee of the Muslim Aid charity.
His lawyer Toby Cadman has rejected the war crimes allegations and has accused the Tribunal of prejudice and “gross defamation”.
Mr Cadman insisted: “For the Tribunal’s chief investigator to make public comment that there is evidence of being involved in killing raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation and whether a fair trial is guaranteed.
“The decision to bring charges is by the Prosecutor—not an investigator.
“A declaration of guilt breaches ‘presumption of innocence’ when the Law Minister states that Chowdhury was an instrument of killing—it’s for the courts to determine guilt and to ensure a fair trial with presumption of innocence.”
An estimated 500,000 people were killed in the 1971 war of independence. The new Bangladesh state accused the Pakistan army and its Razakar and Al-Badr Islamist allies of massacres.
The tribunal has already charged 12 suspects with war crimes and sentenced two to death.
But human rights groups have criticised the tribunal for being politically motivated and lacking international standards.
Chowdhury’s case is reported to be due in the court on May 12, when a request could be made for his extradition.