DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A special tribunal in Bangladesh issued arrest warrants against four senior leaders of the country’s largest Islamic party on Monday ahead of a planned trial over alleged crimes against humanity during the nation’s 1971 independence war.
Suspects including Jamaat-e-Islami party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and his senior party colleagues Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, Abdul Quader Mollah and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman were arrested earlier on various charges including attacking police and blaspheming Islam.
Monday’s arrest warrants mean the tribunal is allowing authorities to keep them behind bars for interrogation on specific charges of crimes against humanity.
The party has accused the government of conspiracy and arresting its leaders on politically motivated charges.
The government set up the tribunal in March to prosecute people accused of collaborating with the Pakistani army in killings and other crimes during the 1971 war that culminated in Bangladesh ceding from Pakistan and winning independence.
On Monday, the three-member tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq made the order after the prosecution petitioned it, seeking arrest warrants against them on charges of alleged genocide, murder, rape, torture, looting and arson related to 1971 war. In an amended law, the government recently described these heinous acts as crimes against humanity.
Chief Prosecutor Golam Arif Tipu told the court that if the accused were not detained in connection with the charges of committing crimes against humanity, they could be released from custody on bail in other cases and could leave the country or obstruct the investigation.
Later Monday, a magistrate in Dhaka separately allowed detectives to question Nizami and Mujahid for three days.
According to official Bangladesh figures, Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions more to flee their homes during a bloody nine-month guerrilla war.
Police say most of the suspects are from Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed the battle for independence and sided with Pakistan. India backed those seeking independence.
The tribunal was pledged by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League before it won general elections in 2008.
Jamaat-e-Islami was a major partner of a 2001-2006 coalition government headed by Hasina’s longtime political rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Two of the suspects, Nizami and Mujahid, were senior ministers of that government.
On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh — then called East Pakistan — declared its independence from West Pakistan, following years of perceived political and economic discrimination. Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation on Dec. 16, 1971, with the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dhaka.
After the war, an amnesty was declared by independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — Hasina’s father — for collaborators who were not directly involved in heinous crimes. It did not cover those who had specific charges or evidence of crimes against them. It remains unclear whether the four Islamic party leaders have outstanding criminal cases dating to that time.
SAN DIEGO, July 25, 2010 (SixMillionCrucifixions.com) – When thinking of the reason why the German Catholic Church thought it proper to lift the ban on membership in the Nazi Party in 1933 one needs to think of what the church stands for. If the church felt that the Nazi ideals were not compatible with Catholic ideals, as was the stated reason for the ban, then one needs to think of what changed that prompted the lift of the ban. I don’t think that the church was simply lifting the ban to protect democracy, as some church apologists claim. The church was never interested in protecting democracy. Cardinal Pacelli, then the Vatican Secretary of State and later Pope Pius XII, had no qualms in prompting the disbanding of the powerful Catholic Center Party in Germany, who could have stood up and made a difference against the Nazis. But even if the church cared about democracy, it would not have lifted the ban unless it thought that it was the right thing to do. Imagine today that the Ku Klux Klan became an official political party in the United States, and began to have traction on a platform based on discrimination against Jews, blacks, gays, or anything else. What would the church advise the faithful to do? Would they support the KKK for the sake of supporting democracy and freedom of speech? The Kulturkampf, the cultural struggle between Otto von Bismarck and the Catholic Church in the 1870s is a perfect example of what the church should have done vis-à-vis the Nazis as well. The Church opposed Bismarck, and the church eventually won, despite the many setbacks on the way. The church stood for what they believed was right in 1870. They could and should have kept the moral high ground and done the same thing against Hitler in 1933, even if that meant another struggle. The difference is that in 1870 Bismarck opposed the Catholic Church, while in 1933 Hitler opposed the Jews. On the second round the Church was not on the receiving end. Even though the Concordat was not intended to mean an endorsement or support of Nazi policies, that was actually the way the German Church and German Catholics widely perceived it to mean. The reason why they joined the Nazi party in droves was not just because the party was successful. They joined because they agreed with its ideals, and because once the Vatican signed the Concordat and the church lifted the ban German Catholics assumed that meant it was then all right to join, and that is precisely what they did.
Apologists for the church justify Vatican support for Nazi Germany in 1933 by claiming that in 1933 the majority of Germans supported the Nazis, and that fighting the Nazis would have been tantamount to suicide. Neither claim is true. The Catholic Center Party was very strong and in a coalition would have actually defeated the Nazis. We have Cardinal Pacelli to thank for the dissolution of the Catholic Center Party and for making Hitler’s absolute takeover of power possible. Even after Hitler came to power the strength and potential of the Church cannot and should not be underestimated. The Catholic Church prospered greatly under the Weimar Republic, increasing the number of priests to over 20,000 for 20 million Catholics, as opposed to sixteen thousand pastors for 40 million Protestants. Catholic organizations of every kind multiplied; new monasteries were built, new religious orders were founded, new schools were established. As the historian Karl Bachem said in 1931, “Never yet has a Catholic country possessed such a developed system of all conceivable Catholic associations as today’s Catholic Germany.” Some apologists for the church claim that the Concordat was signed not to protect church interests, but instead and in particular to protect the Jews. This is a preposterous claim. The Concordat was meant to protect church interests, not Jews.
Just as the Catholic Germans were supportive of the Church’s admonition to stay away from the Nazis before the ban was lifted, they would have remained that way if the Church had continued to keep the ban in place or at the very least advised the faithful clearly, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that the Nazi ideology was evil and incompatible with Catholic teachings. By failing to do this the Church tacitly approved what was being done to the Jews.
It’s true that neither Cardinal Pacelli nor Pope Pius XI could have known what was coming, that they were making a pact with the devil (although they must have known Hitler and Nazi ideology were evil), that it would protect the church from the forthcoming Nazi terror (which in any case it didn’t and even then the church did not repudiate the pact), and even less, that it would help them protect all in need, especially the Jews. The latter claim never crossed their minds.
Cardinal Pacelli might have been concerned about excesses against Jews in Germany, and even discussed it. But actions speak louder than words, and he said very few words and acted even less. Pope Pius XI might have warned Mussolini that the racial laws might make him angry, perhaps even violently so. Yet, the racial laws stood, the pope never got past that and didn’t do anything about it other than complain about the treatment of Jews who had converted to Catholicism. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano may have declared that the church would defend the Jews, which of course surely looked good as it was later reported on the New York Times, but they had also declared at about the same time (June 1938) that the Jews “usurp the best positions in every field, and not always by legitimate means,” cause “the suffering of the immense majority of the native populations,” hate and struggle against the Christian religion, and favor Freemasons and other subversive groups. Father Rosa in the L’Osservatore Romano article called for “an equable and lasting solution to the formidable Jewish problem,” but counseled to do so through legal means. But this was no fluke, as there was a long history of antisemitism in this publication. Previously they had declared that “Antisemitism ought to be the natural, sober, thoughtful, Christian reaction against Jewish predominance” and, according to the paper, true antisemitism “is and can be in substance nothing other than Christianity, completed and perfected in Catholicism.”
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Federal authorities arrested a fugitive alleged drug kingpin Saturday after a decade-long chase through the Caribbean marked by his narrow escapes and public taunting that he paid off police to remain free.
Known as the Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean, Jose Figueroa Agosto was caught wearing a wig while driving through a working-class Dominican neighborhood of San Juan. When he realized he was being followed, he tried to run on foot as he had last September in the Dominican Republic after a pursuing vice squad shot out a tire on his Jeep.
But this time U.S. Marshals, FBI, drug enforcement agents and Puerto Rican police caught up.
“We asked him his name, and he simply answered that we knew who he was,” said Antonio Torres, who heads the U.S. Marshal Service’s fugitive task force in Puerto Rico.
“It is a tremendous arrest, definitely,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez told a news conference Saturday, where she was surrounded by other cheerful federal authorities.
Escobar, the Colombian drug lord of the 1980s, was an escaped convict who died in a shootout with police in 1993.
Figueroa, who was 45 in March, is suspected of shipping Colombian drugs to the U.S. mainland through Puerto Rico, where he escaped from prison in 1999 after presenting a forged release order. He had served only four years of a 209-year sentence for killing a man suspected of stealing a cocaine shipment.
He moved to the Dominican Republic a month later and was briefly detained during a 2001 drug investigation, but was let go because he was using an alias.
Though no one can say exactly how much cocaine he moved, the scale of Figueroa’s empire emerged following the botched September raid, which netted several cars, including an armored Mercedes Benz with $4.6 million in cash inside, and a laptop computer full of evidence.
With leads on several new aliases, police intensified the search. Six of his properties were confiscated — among them a million-dollar apartment in the Dominican resort area of Puerto Plata and a ranch outside Santo Domingo with a small zoo.
A man claiming to be Figueroa called a popular Dominican radio show in December to say he got away after paying police $1 million. He called again in February and pledged $800,000 to anyone who would kill one of two top Dominican police officers.
U.S. and Dominican officials said the man probably was Figueroa.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder personally pledged full cooperation to capture the fugitive, who was wanted on a U.S. Marshals warrant for his prison escape and for filing a false passport application. He also was the target of a U.S. task force focusing on major drug suppliers to the U.S.
He is wanted in the Dominican Republic on kidnapping, money laundering, drug trafficking and murder charges.
Wanted posters are plastered across Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, for Figueroa and his lover Sobeida Morel, the country’s second-most wanted fugitive, who was detained on money-laundering charges last year. She posted bail and vanished before the extent of her alleged involvement with Figueroa became clear.
Morel is still at large. Federal authorities said the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests could be announced.
“We know that the tentacles of Mr. Figueroa Agosto are long,” said Luis Fraticelli, special agent in charge of the FBI in Puerto Rico.
Added Javier Pena, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Caribbean division: “We have a message for fugitives: Sooner or later you will be caught.”