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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Bangladesh "charges" Human Rights Watch with "Contempt of Court" over Azam trial criticism

Prosecutors in Bangladesh have charged Human Rights Watch (HRW) with "contempt of court" after the US-based group criticized the conviction of an Islamist politician on war crime charges.

Ghulam Azam, 91, the former head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was jailed for 90 years last month for masterminding crimes against humanity, genocide and other offences during the country’s 1971 war of independence.

The rights group condemned the conviction as “deeply flawed” and said it failed to meet international standards of a fair trial.

In a detailed report, Human Rights Watch said judges improperly conducted an investigation on behalf of the prosecution, there was collusion among prosecutors, failure to protect defence witnesses and a lack of evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Bangladesh has been hit in recent months by a wave of violent protests over war crimes convictions, presenting the government with a security and credibility challenge ahead of elections early next year.

Early this month, a court declared Jamaat-e-Islami illegal, effectively banning it from the election.

Six party leaders have been convicted of various crimes in connection with the war.

Four of them were sentenced to death and two, including Azam, to life in prison.

It is not clear what the contempt charge will mean for HRW as the group does not have a permanent presence in Bangladesh.

- Agencies

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