Mohamed Jubair Monir, an American citizen, has been arrested by Bangladeshi police for allegedly committing war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War. According to Al Jazeera, the arrest of the 62 year old took place on December 19 in Sunamganj, a district located in north-eastern Bangladesh
Monir and four others are “accused of looting, murder, rape and torching houses of general people, especially those of minorities” during this war, reported Dhaka Tribune.
Monir’s daughter Srabon, however, emphasizes that Monir was 13 years old in 1971, suggesting that the age is too young to commit such crimes. She also claims that her father was not even in East Pakistan at the time of accusations.
“How could he have committed war crimes,” asked Srabon while speaking to Al Jazeera, “when he was 13 years of age?” Srabon continued, “Since 1969, when he was 11, he had been living with his uncle in Lahore in [then West] Pakistan, going to school there, and did not return to Bangladesh until October 1971, two months before the war ended.” Al Jazeera notes, however, that she lacks the evidence to support her claims.
Srabon and the rest of the family believe that the motive behind Monir’s arrest is, instead, political. Before the 1971 Liberation War, Bangladesh was East Pakistan under the Constitution of Pakistan of 1956 that replaced the British monarchy. After the war, East Pakistan seceded and gained independence as Bangladesh.
Monir’s father Abdul Khalique Monir was “a well-known local politician in 1971 [and] collaborated with the Pakistani military during the war.” Monir’s family told Al Jazeera that Monir met with “a leader from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who contested the national elections held last month” in Bangladesh that have been claimed as rigged. Foreign Policy, for example, stated that Awami League party, the ruling party in Bangladesh, is “making a mockery of the electoral process, pandering to Islamic extremists, and turning the country into an authoritarian state.”
Zead-ul-Malum, who is the prosecutor of the Bangladeshi national court International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), denied that the arrest was politically-motivated.
“When we prosecute, we are guided by law and due process. I will not prosecute anyone because of their politics,” Malum told Al Jazeera. “But those who committed crimes during 1971 will be prosecuted, whatever their political beliefs.” Malum also stated that if Monir wishes to claim that he was in Lahore in 1971 and “if they have any facts, his lawyer can come forward to the tribunal.”
Monir’s US lawyer Jason Emert argues that Monir is “innocent of the crimes and must be released immediately. His politically motivated arrest is an affront to the already tarnished democratic process in Bangladesh.”
Emert is also calling on embassy officials to act and “not allow the tribunal to hold [Monir] as a hostage.”
“They should demand the unconditional release of Monir, an American citizen, and see to it that he is able to return home to his family in the United States at once,” Emert says.
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