By Tayfun Salci
The international community -- with the notable exception of Turkey -- is standing silent as opposition figures in Bangladesh are being abducted and killed, the son of one of the country’s leading dissents has told Anadolu Agency.
Salman al-Azami, a Liverpool-based academic whose father Ghulam Azam led the now-banned Jamaat-e-Islami party before his death in October 2014, said his elder brother Aman Azmi was arrested by plainclothes police officers in Dhaka on Aug. 22 and has not been heard from since.
“He asked them ‘Do you have any arrest warrant?’ They said ‘No’,” Azami said, describing his brother’s arrest. “He said ‘Okay, you are taking me, can I take my clothes?’ And they said ‘No, you can’t.’ And since then he’s completely missing.”
Azami said raising awareness of his brother’s fate had proved hugely difficult.
“We went to the media, we told the media and my mother herself, at the age of 83, went to the police station to file a case that he is missing and [say] this is what happened,” he said.
“They refused to take the case. They just said ‘OK, we’ll take a copy but we won’t acknowledge it. We’ll investigate it’ -- but that’s it. We absolutely have no idea where he is.”
The family is well-known in Bangladeshi opposition circles. Ghulam Azam led Jamaat-e-Islami until 2000 and opposed Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan in the 1971 war of independence.
He was later accused of collaborating with the Pakistani army in mass murder, rape, looting and arson. In 2013, he was convicted by a special tribunal and sentenced to 90 years’ imprisonment after a trial criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
A more recent party leader, 73-year-old Motiur Rahman Nizami, was executed in May after being convicted of genocide, rape and torture linked to a militia that helped the Pakistani army identify and kill pro-independence activists during the war.
Nizami was the fifth and the highest-ranked opposition leader to be executed since the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) -- which, despite its name, is a domestic court -- was set up in 2009 to hear cases of crimes committed during the independence war.
His execution was followed by that of former businessman Mir Quasem Ali, 63, on Saturday on war crimes charges.
Rights groups also raised concerns about these cases, with Amnesty International criticizing the use of the death penalty and saying Mir Quasem Ali’s trial had been unfair.
“The people of Bangladesh deserve justice for crimes committed during the war of independence,” Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s south Asia director, said last month. “The continued use of the death penalty will not achieve this. It only serves to inflame domestic tensions and further divide a society riven by violence.
“The ICT proceedings have been marred by fair trial issues from the start. The death penalty is a cruel and irreversible punishment that will only compound the injustice of the proceedings.
“Those who suffered through the horrific events of 1971 deserve better than a flawed process. All executions must be halted immediately as a first step towards abolition of this punishment.”
Azami said the world was “giving a blind eye” to the situation in Bangladesh.
“Of course, to the credit of the Turkish government, they’re the only government that has raised its voice,” the senior English language lecturer at Liverpool Hope University told Anadolu Agency.
“They said something. They have spoken about the injustices. The president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] himself has several times raised his voice but no-one else in the Muslim world, in the international community.”
Azami was particularly critical of his host country. “Britain is one of the aid givers of Bangladesh and they never [criticize] -- and when we talk about this, they say ‘We do not want to interfere’.
“It’s not about interference -- and of course the Western governments do interfere, we all know how they interfere in the world -- but here, they probably think ‘All these are people who are not within our political line anyway, so why should we show concern?’ This is my understanding.”
Turning to the political situation in his home country, Azami added: “There’s no opposition in Bangladesh. No-one can show dissent, no-one, and they are getting away with whatever they’re doing.
“One after another, opposition leaders are being executed, whereas all the international legal and human rights organizations are saying [there] is a huge injustice is going on there, a travesty of justice is going on there.”
* Michael Sercan Daventry contributed to this report.