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November 6, 2013 10:15 am

American Islamic Leader Convicted of War Crimes in Bangladesh

avatar by Steven Emerson

An old wanted poster of Khan. Photo: Clarion Project.

“ŽA war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh convicted Ashrafuzzaman Khan and a second man on Sunday of11 charges related to the kidnapping and murder of 18 intellectuals at the end of the country’s war of independence. In 1971.

Khan is a past secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and a leader of the group’s New York chapter. His name was removed from the ICNA-New York web page last month but he remains listed as the northeastern contact for the North American Imam’s Federation.

The special Bangladesh court issued a death sentence by hanging for Khan and co-defendant Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, who lives in the United Kingdom. Both men were tried in absentia, represented by court-appointed counsel.

“Justice will not be done if they are not awarded capital punishment,” senior judge Obaidul Hassan said in court.

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A parade of witnesses testified that Khan and Chowdhury led a band of gunmen who kidnapped doctors, professors, and journalists in the waning days of Bangladesh’s war to gain independence from Pakistan. The victims later were found in mass graves.

The tribunal charged Khan with being the “chief executor” of the killing squad, which was an offshoot of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami, called Al-Badr.

“They killed top professors, journalists, qnd doctors to make the nation devoid of any talent,” senior prosecutor M.K. Rahman said after the verdicts.

One survivor testified that he saw Khan and Mueen-Uddin when he was kidnapped, and heard them address each other by name. But it is unlikely that Khan, a naturalized citizen living in New York, will be sent back to Bangladesh to face his punishment. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Bangladesh.

“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been sentenced by Bangladesh’s war crimes court. We have nothing more to add,” U.S. embassy spokesperson Kelly McCarthy said.

Similarly, the United Kingdom does not extradite people wanted in other countries if the death penalty is involved.

ICNA was founded by South Asian Muslims in the United States, and its reading list emphasizes works by Jamaat-e-Islami founder Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maududi.

Maududi is considered an influential Islamist thinker who preached that Islam was not like other religions because it offers a “system encompassing all fields of living” including politics, economics, and legislation. Muslims, he wrote, “must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to the rule and make laws from those who do not fear God.”

The tribunal has issued guilty verdicts against eight other people in connection with the 1971 killings. At least eight more people still face charges.

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