Bangladesh bans travel by suspected war criminals

DHAKA Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:17pm IST

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DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has imposed travel restrictions on people suspected of war crimes, the interior minister said on Friday, as the new government prepared to put them on trial over atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence.

Sahara Khatun's statement came a day after parliament unanimously adopted a proposal for speedy trials of war criminals in line with an election pledge by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who took power this month.

"My ministry has already ordered concerned authorities to guard all points so that no war criminal can flee the country," Khatun told reporters.

The war criminals include people who opposed the war of independence against Pakistan and helped the Pakistani army in acts of genocide in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Around 3 million people were killed during the war at the hands of the Pakistani army and local collaborators, according to official records in Bangladesh.

Hasina's father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founding leader and first president, launched a move for trying the war criminals but it stalled after he was killed in a 1975 army coup.

No successor government initiated the trials but Hasina said she would pursue the guilty if her party was voted back to power.

Many Bangladeshis accuse the Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's biggest religion-based political party, of collaborating with the Pakistani army during the independence war.

Jamaat denies the charges.

"All relevant information about the war criminals has already been sent to the respective places," Khatun said.

Hasina has also sought the United Nations' help in holding the trials.

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