Page last updated at 19:59 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Bangladesh 'Beatle hero' move

George Harrison in Calcutta in 1972
George Harrison mobilised the pop world to sing for Bangladesh

A leading Bangladeshi constitutional lawyer has started legal moves to get his country officially to recognise George Harrison and Edward Kennedy.

Masood Sobhan told the BBC the former Beatle and serving US senator played "key roles" during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Mr Sobhan said it was a "disgrace" that the pair had not been recognised.

His case for them to be honoured is expected to be heard by the Bangladeshi High Court at the end of December.


"It is not for me to say how exactly the people of Bangladesh should officially thank them for what they did in 1971 - that's for the government to decide - but all I can say is that this is a grievous wrong that urgently needs to be addressed," Mr Sobhan said.

Edward Kennedy
Senator Kennedy did much to highlight the suffering of Bangladeshis

"George Harrison brought the attention of the world to what was happening in Bangladesh during the independence war because of his concert on behalf of the country in New York in 1971.

"Without his effort, much of the suffering endured by the Bangladeshi people at the time would have gone unnoticed. Millions were killed, made into refugees or raped," he said.

George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh raised money for war-affected people with performances by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston and Bob Dylan.

The concert came as the country was in the middle of its bloody nine-month war of independence, which culminated in the Pakistani army surrendering - following Indian intervention - in December 1971.

'More important'

No official figures exist as to the number of people who were killed in the conflict, but some estimates say that it was as many as three million, with 200,000 women raped.

Indian armoured vehicle in the Bangladesh war of independence
The war was brief but bloody

The war came four months after a devastating cyclone killed half a million people and caused widespread famine in what was then East Pakistan.

Mr Sobhan said that Senator Kennedy's role was "arguably even more important" than that of George Harrison - who died in 2001.

He said that Mr Kennedy "bravely exposed the plight of millions of refugees in India" at a time when the US government was "preoccupied with establishing closer relations with Pakistan".

"In 1971 he travelled to see for himself the refugees in India and he realised just how bad things were, using his position as chairman of the senate's refugee committee to persuade the US to allocate funds," said Mr Sobhan.

Mr Sobhan argues said that Senator Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour earlier this year, should be honoured "within his lifetime".

"He needs to know from the Bangladeshi authorities how grateful we are," he said.

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