Some Jamaat leaders living on nerves
Panicked by the government move to hold trial of war criminals, top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders with alleged links to 1971 war crimes are desperately searching ways to evade prosecution and protect their political future.
Once convicted of war crimes, an individual will permanently lose the right to contest election to parliament or local government bodies, according to the electoral laws enacted before and after the ninth parliamentary election.
A number of top Jamaat leaders might be detained on charge of war crimes after the investigation agency, likely to be formed today, starts working, a senior Jamaat leader told The Daily Star yesterday.
While talking to The Daily Star at his residence in the capital, he received a number of phone calls from other Jamaat leaders voicing concern about the start of the trial process and possible detention.
Jamaat leaders were still assessing the full implication of events to come.
The government has already imposed a restriction on their leaving the country and is keeping them under constant watch. Jamaat leaders Mohammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdur Razzaque had been barred from going abroad.
Jamaat high command has already directed party leaders to prepare for demonstration against detention, without waiting for any response from the BNP or other components of the four-party alliance, party insiders said.
Some Jamaat leaders met BNP Chief Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan office last month and proposed waging a united movement against the government on various issues including "harassment of political leaders in the name of the trial."
But they received a lukewarm response from the BNP chief. She told them that movement against the government can be launched from their respective sides, said a Jamaat source.
"We will decide on our next course of action after observing the government's actions. If the government attempts to victimise Jamaat-e-Islami in the name of trial, we will see what to do," Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed told The Daily Star yesterday.
He however claimed that there is no war criminal in Jamaat-e-Islami.
Jamaat is also making preparation to face the trial legally.
Jamaat's legal wing comprised of a number of lawyers is working to defend party leaders who might be charged with war crimes, party sources said.
Separate files are being prepared on the party's top leaders with possible allegations against them and legal arguments to get them cleared of the allegations, a party leader said.
Jamaat also plans to challenge the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973 under which the trail will be held, he said.
"But we can't challenge the law at the Supreme Court before it is used against any of us," the Jamaat leader said.
The severity of the Act also worries them because if charged under the act, an individual will lose his or her fundamental rights ensured by the constitution.
The party has also launched a massive campaign at home and abroad raising questions about the legality of the prosecution.
A number of Jamaat leaders have been in contact with foreign diplomats in Dhaka.
Some party men abroad are also keeping contact with some international organisations.
The party prepared and published a number of documents, and sent those to the foreign missions labelling the government move as "politically motivated", a Jamaat leader said.