DHAKA, May 12 (Xinhua) -- The Bangladeshi police arrested a top leader of an Islamist party Sunday for his alleged crimes against humanity committed during the country's war of independence in 1971.
Abul Kalam Mohammad Yusuf, now about 84-year old, a central leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, was arrested from his residence in capital Dhaka shortly after the country's first war crimes court ordered the arrest of the then deputy chief of Jamaat.
Now a senior vice president of Jamaat, Yusuf also served as the acting chief of the party after the detention of its Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami on charges of war crimes.
The court named "The International Crimes Tribunal-1" issued the warrant following the prosecution's plea to arrest Yusuf, who allegedly founded Razakar, an auxiliary group of then Pakistan army.
It also ordered the police to produce him before the tribunal on May 26.
During the day's proceedings, the tribunal took 15 charges brought against the Jamaat leader, who was a regional cabinet member of the last Pakistan administration in the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, into cognizance.
The war crimes charges include looting, arson, deportation of people and killing of 700 people in six incidents of genocide in 1971.
Bangladesh in January this year arrested Islamist leader Ghulam Azam, aged 89, on charges of masterminding war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle. After his arrest, prosecutors said Azam, the former chief of Bangladesh Jamaat, is alleged to have created and led pro-Pakistan militias which carried out numerous murders and rapes during the nine-month war.
After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010, almost 40 years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan to castigate those committed crimes against humanity during the nine-month war.
But it has been plagued by criticism for targeting her political opponents from ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's BNP and its key ally Jamaat, which allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani forces in 1971 to prevent an independent Bangladesh.
Both BNP and Jamaat have already dismissed the court as a government "show trial" and said it is a domestic set-up with no United Nations oversight or involvement.
Since January 21 this year, two tribunals dealing with the war crimes cases have delivered verdicts in four cases. Jamaat Vice- President Delawar Hossain Sayedee and expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad were sentenced to death while Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah received life imprisonment.
Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, another important Jamaat leader, was sentenced to death on Thursday in capital Dhaka for war crimes including mass killings. In protest at the verdict, Jamaat enforced a countrywide dawn-to-dusk strike Sunday.
Apart from them, many more leaders of Jamaat and several BNP high-ups are now facing war crimes charges before the tribunals.
Last week ICT-2 issued arrest warrants against Chowdhury Mueen- Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan on charge of killing 18 intellectuals at the end of the war. "Ashrafuzzaman is now staying in New York and Moinuddin is staying in London,"Prosecutor Zeyad Al Malum told reporters.
Jamaat, which denies any role in war crimes committed by pro- Pakistan militias, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Bangladesh Awami League party has targeted the party to split the ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia-led 18-party main opposition alliance.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. Hasina's government said about 3 million people were killed in the war although independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.