B''desh tribunal orders extended detention of BNP lawmaker

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Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Jan 17 (PTI) Bangladesh''s war crimes tribunaltoday ordered the detention of a senior BNP leader suspectedof war crimes during the country''s 1971 liberation movementagainst Pakistan, being accused of masterminding the killingof a top Hindu philanthropist.

The three-member International Crimes Tribunal ofBangladesh headed by a High Court judge ordered the extendeddetention of ex-premier Khaleda Zia''s Bangladesh Nationalistparty (BNP) stalwart Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury until April 19for "effective and proper investigation" of the charges. Thelawmaker himself defended his case before the tribunal

Tribunal''s chief Justice M Nizamul Huq asked theinvestigation agency to complete investigation into theallegations against Chowdhury at the soonest possible timewhile the court turned down three of his four petitions.

Appearing before the tribunal under heavy securityescorts from Dhaka Central Jail Chowdhury submitted petitionsseeking permission to defend himself own case with assistanceof his lawyers, allow him to attend the next parliamentsession beginning on January 25 and recalling his arrestwarrant as a suspected war criminal and treatment at aspecialised private hospital, instead of a sate-run one.

The tribunal rejected the pleas only asking prisonauthorities to ensure his proper treatment under jail codewhile advised Chowdhury to seek permission for joining theparliament to the "appropriate forum", an apparent referenceto the High Court.

The tribunal asked Chowdhury to defend himself aloneor appoint lawyers for him in line with the rules.

The tribunal on December 19 issued arrest warrantagainst Chowdhury on war crime charges four days after hisarrest on a different criminal charge coinciding withBangladesh''s 39th Victory Day.

A special investigation agency, constituted alongwith the International Crimes Tribunal, recently said theyhave gathered "enough evidence" of "crimes against humanity"against Chowdhury, who was particularly suspected formasterminding the 1971 killing Nutun Chandra Singha, arespected philanthropist an industrialist in Chittagong.

He is widely believed to have instigated thePakistani army to kill Singha as they preferred to spare him.

Chowdhury is also widely accused of running a"torture cell" at his residence in the port city during thewar time while an international journalist in Dhaka told PTIthat he was ready to testify against him being a victim oftortures at his residence during the Liberation War.

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