Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin played a role in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain
A British Muslim leader from London who has been indicted in Bangladesh for war crimes has said he is willing to face a fair trial to clear his name.
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, 64, who was born in Bangladesh, is accused of playing a role in the abduction and killing of 18 people during the 1971 liberation war from Pakistan.
Mr Mueen-Uddin lives in north London with his wife and four children.
He admits supporting the unity of Pakistan, but denies war crimes.
He is accused of being a member of the Islamic Al-Badr group during the war, which fought to prevent Bangladesh from gaining independence by identifying and killing pro-independence activists, including academics and journalists.
‘No criminal conduct’
Speaking to the BBC’s Asian Network, he said: “Supporting the unity of a sovereign nation is one thing but having any involvement in the kind of crimes alleged is something quite different.
“I never took part in any way, shape or form in any criminal conduct during the war of liberation.”
Mr Mueen-Uddin, who holds dual British and Bangladeshi citizenship, came to Britain in 1973, and has played a prominent role in the British Muslim community.
He is a trustee of the charity Muslim Aid and played a role in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain.
“I have never concealed my name or identity and when I came to Britain I informed the Home Office through my local MP of the allegations that were made against me by Bangladesh’s winning side,” he said.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal was set up in 2010 to try people suspected of crimes under international law, committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence.
The tribunal in Dhaka has already charged 12 people with war crimes and sentenced two people to death, including the vice-president of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamic party.
But, human rights groups have criticised the tribunal for being politically motivated and falling short of international standards.
Mr Mueen-Uddin said he wants to prove his innocence but does not have confidence in the tribunal.
“I am happy to respond to these charges in an open and fair court of law that is recognised by the international community,” he said.
“But I have little faith that the current process in Bangladesh is open nor just.”
Mr Mueen-Uddin’s barrister, Toby Cadman, said he was seriously concerned about the workings of Bangladesh’s war court.
He said: “Unfortunately, the Bangladeshi tribunal is neither fair nor impartial and we are gravely concerned about the future of the case.
“The trials are hugely politicised, involving instances of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct bordering on a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”
Mr Cadman said he was expecting an extradition request to be made from the Bangladesh government.
The Bangladeshi law minister, Shafique Ahmed said: “There has been an investigation and during the war of liberation in 1971, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin is accused of committing heinous crimes.
“If he does not come to Bangladesh to clear his name, the trial will start in his absence and a lawyer will be appointment by the state to defend him.
“It will be an absolutely fair trial, the tribunal will be independent; there is no doubt about the standard of the tribunal, it is completely in line with international standards and there will no question of any miscarriage of justice.”
The current Bangladeshi government says up to three million people were killed in the war but independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.
Sara Hossain, a British-trained barrister and one of Bangladesh’s most prominent human rights lawyers, said it is important for a trial to take place soon.
“The victim’s families and survivors of the war need some closure, many of them are still waiting to see some kind of legal process,” she said.
“It is very important that the charges against Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin are heard in a court of law.”