U.S. Citizen Sentenced to Death for 1971 War Crimes

Thursday, November 07, 2013
Ashrafussaman Khan (photo: Daily Star)

A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal has sentenced an American citizen to death for helping lead a militia group responsible for murdering nearly 20 intellectuals during the country’s war for independence 42 years ago.


In 1971, Ashrafuzzaman Khan was a leader of Al-Badr, a militia that fought against Bangladesh’s effort to break away from Pakistan.


Death squads operated by Al-Badr killed at least 18 people, including academics, journalists and doctors.


The tribunal determined that Khan, along with another former leader, Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, were guilty of “aiding, abetting, instructing, ordering, encouraging and providing moral support to” members of the “killing squad.” The tribunal’s verdict described the killings as “a premeditated and secret plan to exterminate the best and most notable intellectuals belonging to different professions. The intention was to paralyze the nation.”


Both men were tried in absentia as they refused to return to Bangladesh. They face death by hanging if they ever go home.


Khan fled the country after the war ended, and eventually settled in the United States, where he became a U.S. citizen. He now lives in New York and serves on the executive board of the Islamic Circle of North America, having at one time been its secretary general.


Uddin is a prominent Muslim leader now living in London. He works as the director of the Muslim spiritual care provision in the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.


They were among eight individuals tried and convicted by the war crimes court. Four others also received death sentences.


“I think all of Bangladesh was waiting for this day,” architecture professor Anirban told The New York Times. He was nine months old when his father, Mostafa, was abducted by Al-Badr.


The war crimes tribunal—which was set up in 2010 by Bangladesh’s prime minister to investigate abuses during the conflict—was criticized by Human Rights Watch, which said it had shown “a strong judicial bias toward the prosecution.”


Violent protests erupted following the tribunal’s first guilty verdict in January, resulting in the deaths of 100 people.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Bangladesh Sentences 2 Expatriates to Death for War Crimes (by Ellen Barry, New York Times)

US Citizen, Briton Sentenced in Absentia for 1971 War Crimes in Bangladesh (by Ruma Paul, Reuters)

Gallows for Mueen, Ashraf (Daily Star)

First Ever Civilian Jury Conviction of U.S. Soldier for War Crime (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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