Dhaka: A tribunal set up to try Bengali-speaking suspects of "crimes against humanity" committed during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan Monday issued arrest warrants for four top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Bangladesh's biggest Islamic party.
Chief of the three-member tribunal Justice Nizamul Haque said: "Let the warrant of arrest be issued against the four persons."
His comment followed the tribunal's first hearing since its constitution in March under the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973.
The four — JI chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, and senior assistant secretaries general Mohammad Qamaruzzaman and Abdul Qadr Mollah — are, however, already in jail facing several other charges including sedition and murder.
The order came a day after a special prosecution panel submitted a petition to the tribunal seeking orders so the four suspects could be kept in confinement "in the interest of smooth investigation" of the charges against them.
Chief of the 10-member prosecution team Gulam Arif Tipu said: "This is a red-letter day . . . the court order has reflected the aspirations of the people."
His comments followed the court's 30-minute hearing which marked its inauguration.
The tribunal at the Old High Court complex in central Dhaka set August 2 for its next hearing and ordered the prosecution to submit the compliance report for its maiden order on that day.
"It appeared that the four are crucially needed to be kept in confinement as the special investigation agency has already gathered evidence against the four ... they were found to be involved in gruesome crimes like genocide, killing, torture, arson and forcing exodus during the Liberation War," Tipu alleged earlier.
He added that a special agency, set up simultaneously with the International Crimes Tribunal, would investigate allegations against Nizami and the three others with help from the prosecution panel.
The tribunal was set up in line with Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina's ruling Awami League's electoral pledge to try those accused of the 1971 atrocities.