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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 13:39 GMT
Calls for Bangladesh war trials
By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Bangladeshi fighters attack a suspected collaborator, Dhaka, 1971
Bangladeshis fought each other - and Pakistani forces - in 1971
Veterans of Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence have called for their countrymen who collaborated with Pakistan to face war crimes trials.

Hundreds of the veterans who took part in the victorious war against Pakistan travelled to Dhaka to issue the call at the request of their former commanders.

They say Bangladeshis who collaborated with Pakistani forces caused the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Many of those they want tried are politically influential figures.

They include the leaders of Bangladesh's largest religious-based party - Jamaat-e-Islami - which at the time opposed the break-up of Pakistan.

To this day, the leaders of the party deny a war of liberation took place, rather calling it a civil war between Pakistanis.

They also deny involvement in a youth militia which carried out many of the killings.

One of the reasons why the veterans have launched their campaign now is that elections are being organised for December.

They want Jamaat-e-Islami, which did well in the last elections, to be banned from taking part.

Lingering anger

The veterans won their country's freedom from Pakistan with the support of India in only a matter of months and are the nation's heroes.

But many wounds from the conflict are yet to heal.

Bangladesh's official records say some three million people, mostly civilians, lost their lives.

Many of the perpetrators were not Pakistani soldiers but their supporters among the local population. None have ever been tried.

Dr Mustafisa Rahman, a medic in the Bangladeshi forces, said of the collaborators: "They raped our mothers, they killed our brothers and sisters, they burned our houses, they have done everything."

Earlier governments have ignored the calls for trials, saying they would damage national unity.

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