Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin to be charged with war crimes

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin with Prince Charles

The following story appeared in the print edition of yesterday’s paper:

One of Britain’s most important Muslim leaders is to be charged with war crimes, investigators and officials have told The Sunday Telegraph.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, also known as Choudhury Moinuddin, director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the NHS, a trustee of the major British charity Muslim Aid and a central figure in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain, fiercely denies any involvement in a number of abductions and “disappearances” during Bangladesh’s independence struggle in the 1970s.

He says the claims are “politically-motivated” and false.

However, Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, the chief investigator for the country’s International Crimes Tribunal, said: “There is prima facie evidence of Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin being involved in a series of killings of intellectuals.

“We have made substantial progress in the case against him. There is no chance that he will not be indicted and prosecuted. We expect charges in June.”

Mr Mueen-Uddin could face the death penalty if convicted.

Bangladesh’s Law and Justice Minister, Shafique Ahmed, said: “He was an instrument of killing intellectuals. He will be charged, for sure.”

For 25 years after independence from Britain, the country now known as Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, even though the two halves were a thousand miles apart with India between them. In 1971, Bangla resentment at the “colonial” nature of Pakistani rule broke out into a full-scale revolt.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were massacred by Pakistani troops.

Mr Mueen-Uddin, then a journalist on the Purbodesh newspaper in Dhaka, was a member of a fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which supported Pakistan in the war. In the closing days, as it became clear that Pakistan had lost, he is accused of being part of a collaborationist Bangla militia, the Al-Badr Brigade, which rounded up, tortured and killed prominent citizens to deprive the new state of its intellectual and cultural elite.

The sister-in-law of one such victim, Dolly Chaudhury, claims to have identified Mr Mueen-Uddin as one of three men who abducted her husband, Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, a prominent scholar of Bengali literature, on the night of 14 December 1971.

“I was able to identify one [of the abductors], Mueen-Uddin,” she said in video testimony, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which will form part of the prosecution case.

“He was wearing a scarf but my husband pulled it down as he was taken away. When he was a student, he often used to go to my brother in law’s house. My husband, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, we all recognised that man.”

Professor Chaudhury was never seen again.

Also among the as yet untested testimony is the widow of another victim, who claims that Mr Mueen-Uddin was in the group that abducted her husband, Sirajuddin Hussain, another journalist, from their home on the night of 10 December 1971.

“There was no doubt that he was the person involved in my husband’s abduction and killing,” said Noorjahan Seraji. One of the other members of the group, who was caught soon afterwards, allegedly gave Mr Mueen-Uddin’s name in his confession.

Another reporter on Purbodesh, Ghulam Mostafa, also disappeared.

The vanished journalist’s brother, Dulu, said he appealed to Mr Mueen-Uddin for help and was taken around the main Pakistani Army detention and torture centres by Mr Mueen-Uddin. Dulu Mostafa said that Mr Mueen-Uddin appeared to be well known at the detention centres, gained easy admission to the premises and was saluted by the Pakistani guards as he entered. Ghulam was never found.

Mr Mueen-Uddin’s then editor at the paper, Atiqur Rahman, said that Mr Mueen-Uddin had been the first journalist in the country to reveal the existence of the Al-Badr Brigade and had demonstrated intimate knowledge of its activities.

After his colleagues disappeared, he said, Mr Mueen-Uddin had asked for his home address. Fearing that he too would be abducted, the editor gave a fake address. Mr Rahman’s name, complete with the fake address, appeared on a Al-Badr death list found just after the end of the war.

“I gave that address only to Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, and when that list appeared it was obvious that he had given that address to Al Badr,” Mr Rahman said in statements given to the investigators.

“I’m sure I gave the address to no-one else.”

Mr Rahman then published a front-page story and picture about Mr Mueen-Uddin, who had by that stage left the city, naming him as involved in “disappearances.”

This brought forward two further witnesses, Mushtaqur and Mahmudur Rahman, who claim they recognised the picture as somebody who had been part of an armed group looking for the BBC correspondent in Dhaka during the abductions. The group was unsuccessful because the BBC man had gone into hiding.

Toby Cadman, Mr Mueen-Uddin’s lawyer, said on Saturday: “No formal allegations have been put to Mr Mueen-Uddin and therefore it is not appropriate to issue any formal response. Any and all allegations that Mr Mueen-Uddin committed or participated in any criminal conduct during the Liberation War of 1971 that have been put in the past will continue to be strongly denied in their entirety.

“For the Chief Investigator to be making such public comment raises serious questions as to the integrity of the investigation. The Chief Investigator will be aware that the decision as to the bringing of charges is made by the Prosecutor and not an investigator.

“Therefore, the comments by the Chief Investigator are highly improper and serves as a further basis for raising the question as to whether a fair trial may be guaranteed before the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh.

“The statement by the Bangladesh Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is a clear declaration of guilt and in breach of the presumption of innocence.”

Since moving to the UK in the early 1970s, Mr Mueen-Uddin has taken British citizenship and built a successful career as a community activist and Muslim leader.

In 1989 he was a key leader of protests against the Salman Rushdie book, The Satanic Verses.

Around the same time he helped to found the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, Jamaat-e-Islami’s European wing, which believes in creating a sharia state in Europe and in 2010 was accused by a Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, of infiltrating the Labour Party.

Tower Hamlets’ directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was expelled from Labour for his close links with the IFE.

Until 2010 Mr Mueen-Uddin was vice-chairman of the controversial East London Mosque, controlled by the IFE, in which capacity he greeted Prince Charles when the heir to the throne opened an extension to the mosque. He was also closely involved with the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been dominated by the IFE.

He was chairman and remains a trustee of the IFE-linked charity, Muslim Aid, which has a budget of £20 million. He has also been closely involved in the Markfield Institute, the key institution of Islamist higher education in the UK.

The International Crimes Tribunal, a new body set up to try alleged “war criminals” from the 1971 war, has already begun trying some Bangladesh-based leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Trials were originally supposed to start soon after the war but were cancelled by the military after a coup.

The new tribunal was welcomed by most Bangladeshis and international human rights groups as finally bringing justice and closure for the massive abuses suffered by civilians in 1971.

However, it is now subject to growing international criticism. Human Rights Watch said that the ICT’s proceedings “fall short of international standards” with a “failure to ensure due process” and “serious concerns about the impartiality of the bench.”

“The chairman of the tribunal was formerly one of the investigators,” said Abdur Razzaq, lead counsel for the defence.

“As chairman, he will be pronouncing on an investigation report he himself produced.”

The law minister, Mr Ahmed, denied this. Mr Razzaq described the tribunal as “vendetta politics” by Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League against its political opponents.

Any trial of Mr Mueen-Uddin would also be fraught with practical difficulties. There is no extradition treaty between Britain and Bangladesh and the UK does not extradite in death penalty cases. Many of the witnesses are elderly and some have died.

However, Mr Hannan Khan said that Mr Mueen-Uddin was likely to be tried in absentia if he did not return.

“We have a duty to bring alleged perpetrators to justice,” he said.

“They must know the fear, however long ago it was. What happened here forty years ago is on the conscience of the world.”

“I have waited 40 years to see the trial of the war criminals,” said the widow, Noorjahan Seraji. “I have not spent a single night without suffering and I want justice.”

Advertisements

Ken Livingstone's anti-fascist group appoints fascist as vice-chair

One of this blog’s oldest friends, Azad Ali, has a great new post. As the Harry’s Place blog reports, Azad is the new vice-chair of Unite Against Fascism, the ostensibly anti-racist group (in fact more of a meal-ticket for the leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party.)

Azad is the community affairs co-ordinator of the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, which controls the East London Mosque and which is dedicated, in its own words, to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” Through “hisbah” (the enforcement of Islamic law) and “jihad,” it aims to create a “global” Islamic dictatorship, the caliphate, and its “primary work” in this “is in Europe, because it is this continent, despite all the furore about its achievements, which has a moral and spiritual vacuum.”

The IFE has already made some progress towards its goal, exercising strong influence over Tower Hamlets Council through its close ally, the elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman. Lutfur’s council has been busily engaged in enforcing Islamic law on, for instance, local strip clubs and a gay pub. At the last election Azad and the IFE also helped to deliver extraordinary and unprecedented swings in their East London heartland for their equally close friend, Ken Livingstone (Ken had given the East London Mosque more than £1 million of City Hall money to build the IFE a new headquarters, despite the strenuous objections of his officials.)

Azad has written on his IFE blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric. He used to attend talks by Al-Qaeda’s main representative in the UK, Abu Qatada. He has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and said that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were not terrorism. On his IFE blog, he advocated the killing of British troops in Iraq (he sued a newspaper for reporting this, and lost.) Filmed by an undercover reporter for my Channel 4 Dispatches on the IFE, Azad said: “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.” His response to this exposure was to threaten our undercover reporter.

It would, I think, be fair to describe Azad Ali as an Islamic fascist.

And Azad’s immediate boss, UAF’s chair, is… Ken Livingstone. In this small world, isn’t it fascinating how the same names keep cropping up?

Ken Livingstone's extremist links: a 'remarkable intellect' hits back

Ken Livingstone campaigning for the extremist-linked Lutfur Rahman

Rabina Khan, Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet member for housing, penned a sharp attack today on the Evening Standard’s recent series of articles about the electoral roll shenanigans in Tower Hamlets, the Sharia-tinged administration of which she is part.

Ms Khan claimed that linking Lutfur with Islamic extremism was “simply risible.” Perhaps she’s forgotten that Lutfur lost a complaint on this precise subject against me and this newspaper at the Press Complaints Commission recently. The PCC ruled that it was “not misleading” to describe Rahman as “closely linked” to the extremist Islamic group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), who control the East London Mosque.

Dozens and dozens of times over the last two years, this blog, this newspaper, and Channel 4’s Dispatches have produced copious evidence linking Lutfur with Islamic extremism. The main highlights of his career to last October are set out here. The IFE, the mosque and their allies have also made more than 200 complaints about us to the PCC and to the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom. Every single one of those complaints has been rejected, too.

In her piece, Ms Khan angrily denied that Lutfur’s supporters were “homophobic.” In fact, the East London Mosque is perhaps the most powerful homophobic institution in London. As I and others have described, Lutfur’s most prominent supporter, Shiraj Haque, and other Rahman backers, have repeatedly homophobically heckled gay councillors from the public gallery in Tower Hamlets’ own council chamber. Rabina Khan’s cabinet colleague for education, Cllr Oli Rahman, has shared a platform at the East London Mosque, in his official capacity, with a group that campaigns against homosexuality. Her cabinet colleague for regeneration, Cllr Rania Khan, posted homophobic rhetoric on her social networking pages.

Rabina’s fear, of course, is that public disquiet about Lutfur will undermine his close ally, Ken Livingstone. At the election that brought Rahman to power, Ken broke with his own party to campaign for Lutfur, against Labour. Ken’s own links with the IFE are also close. In 2004/5 Ken’s London Development Agency (LDA) gave the East London Mosque hundreds of thousands of  pounds in to build a new headquarters for the IFE, even though the LDA’s own staff warned that there was “no case” for paying it the money. At the subsequent London mayoral poll – an election lost by Ken – senior members of the IFE managed to secure extraordinary swings, completely unreplicated anywhere else, towards Livingstone in Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Newham.

In recent years, Tower Hamlets has seen highly suspicious movements in its electoral roll – going up sharply in years with major elections, plunging back down when there are no elections, then shooting up again in the next election year. Many of the new names on the electoral roll (albeit in a community where people have common names) are the same as those of people we have identified as members of the IFE. This is what the Standard was getting at.

Since I last wrote about Lutfur’s administration, it has become even more of a public scandal. One of Lutfur’s councillors, Shelina Akhtar, has been sentenced to 16 weeks in jail for her second offence of benefit fraud. Quite incredibly, weeks after her imprisonment, she remains a councillor, collecting her full £200-a-week allowance.

Lutfur has been revealed to be paying £1,000 a day to a former senior LDA manager, one of a number of Ken “cronies” now employed at Tower Hamlets. Lutfur has even refused to answer questions from councillors at meetings, with one council officer explaining that to do so would “breach his human rights.”

Justifying this refusal, Rabina Khan herself explained that she and other members of Lutfur’s cabinet were perfectly well qualified to answer instead because of their “remarkable intellect.” In fact, as we have also described, Lutfur’s cabinet includes a tax avoider who bought himself a £48k Porsche; a former staff member at an IFE front organisation with a long record of encounters with the police; and a woman with pictures of knives on her social networking site (under the caption “I luv my weapons.”) This last charmer, Rania Khan, is the one who led the charge to shut down the sex displays, by the way.

Rabina’s “remarkable intellect” still needs a little bit of polishing, I think.

PS: Lutfur denies links to extremism.

East London Mosque: have a happy extremist Christmas

Christmas is always a busy time down at this blog’s favourite hub of moderation’n’tolerance, the East London Mosque, controlled by the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe. The punters have to be saved from what Mahera Ruby, the head of the IFE’s women’s section, called the “pagan myth of Santa Claus.” What’s that, Mahera? You mean Santa doesn’t really exist?

Tonight, there’s a special treat (strictly gender-segregated, of course) to get the non-festive season underway. It’s the final round of the “Battle of the Isocs,” a quiz for university Islamic societies, former stamping-grounds of so many of our finest young terrorists. Among the celebrity guests (see above) is a certain Haitham al-Haddad, a big favourite at the East London Mosque. One of his previous appearances there was at an event to pronounce music a “social ill.” Haitham has also described music as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.” Let’s hope there aren’t any questions about last year’s Christmas Number One, shall we?

If Christmas without music sounds a bit dull, the East London Mosque has the answer. On Christmas Eve, there is a meeting about “the greatest prophet” with the IFE activist and one of Hamas’s most fervent fans, Junaid Ahmed. Then on Boxing Day the mosque hosts another event with another terrorist apologist, Zahir Mahmood. You’ve already missed, alas, the East London Mosque meeting last week about the rehabilitation of young offenders with Azad Ali, the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator. Azad knows a bit about causing offence himself – he’s justified the killing of British troops…

East London Mosque hosts speaker who has 'called for Jewish women to be enslaved and pillaged'

I haven’t written about that self-proclaimed haven of moderation and tolerance, the East London Mosque, for a few weeks. After having their tolerance of hatred and extremism repeatedly exposed, they’ve been keeping their heads down. But now normal service is back.

Last Friday, according to publicity material (above) and its Facebook page, the mosque was due to host that conspicuous moderate, Sheikh Saad al-Beraik, who has reportedly stated: “Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?”

This is the second time Beraik has appeared at the mosque this year. He was due to speak at an event there in March, but after a row he appeared without speaking (the organisers said that they simply ran out of time to hear from him, and it wasn’t that he had been banned.)

Nice people, those East London Mosque folks!

The Islamic Forum of Europe becomes a three-time loser in the complaint stakes

The East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, run by the Islamic Forum of Europe
The East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, run by the Islamic Forum of Europe

The Islamic Forum of Europe, the extremist group which runs the East London Mosque and has been accused of taking over Tower Hamlets council, has lost yet another complaint – its third – against my coverage of its affairs.

As very attentive readers may remember, we reported last February how Lutfur Ali, a man with close links to the IFE, had been appointed assistant chief executive of Tower Hamlets despite being unqualified for the £125k job (the council’s professional recruitment consultants described him as “superficial,” “rather limited,” “one-dimensional” and a man who might “struggle with the intellectual challenges [of] a highly strategic role”.) On the panel which appointed him were the IFE-backed council leader, Lutfur Rahman, and another councillor, Abjol Miah, who is an IFE activist.

The IFE, bizarrely, waited more than a year before complaining to the Press Complaints Commission that it was wrong to describe Lutfur Ali as someone with close links to them. We pointed out, as patiently as we could manage, that Mr Ali had in fact set up a think-tank with a number of co-directors who were either senior officials of the IFE or closely linked to it. The PCC accepted this as evidence of a close link and ruled last week that “no inaccuracy could be established” in our pieces.

I still can’t quite understand why the IFE wanted to make an issue of this now – I can only speculate that their ally Lutfur Rahman, now the elected mayor, wanted to bring Mr Ali back to work at the council (he was forced to resign after our expose.)

Last year, the IFE also comprehensively lost an orchestrated campaign of complaints it waged against me at the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom. They later tried to take the Lutfur Ali point to Ofcom as well, but the complaint was rejected as out of time – not that stopped them claiming that Ofcom had found in their favour. Abjol Miah, too, made failed complaints to both Ofcom and the PCC. Not that stopped him lying about the outcome, either.

The reason this complaint took seven months to resolve is that the IFE simply would not take no for an answer, betting that we would get tired of responding to their endless new responses. Like the complaint itself, that was a bet they lost. Islamists use the tactics of serial pestering and legal threat (we’ve had one of those from the IFE, too) to escape media scrutiny, relying on the fact that most journalists do not have the time and energy to fend them off.

For the slower learners out there, I should state once again that we are the exception. We will always find the energy, and put in the time, to defend our journalism against the lies of proven liars.

Bob Lambert was a police spy, says the Guardian

Bob Lambert, right. (Photo via The Guardian)
Bob Lambert, right. (Photo via The Guardian)

Readers of this blog will know that I have often locked horns with Robert Lambert, one of Britain’s most important Islamist fellow-travellers, for the deeply shoddy work he has produced in his capacity as an Exeter University academic.

Lambert’s unit, the “European Muslim Research Centre,” is heavily funded by Islamist groups and serves its clients by producing pseudo-academic reports claiming, against nearly all the evidence, that life for British Muslims is going to hell in a handcart. You can see my explanation of the deceit involved in his last one here (another part of the same report even had to be withdrawn as libellous.) Lambert is a key defender of Islamism – and a key attacker of its critics, such as myself – and is to be found on every public platform where the East London Mosque,IFE, Muslim Council of Britain and others gather to mourn lost influence. Now, his credibility appears to have been destroyed.

Lambert, a former police officer, has made no secret of the fact that he used to work for Special Branch (as head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he pioneered the now discarded approach of officially anointing “good Islamists” in the hope that they would act as a bulwark against “bad Islamists.”)

Today’s Guardian, however, goes much further, calling him  “a former spy who controlled a network of undercover police officers in political groups” and “ran operations at a covert unit that placed police spies into political campaigns, including those run by anti-racism groups. The unit also disrupted the activities of these groups. Lambert became head of the unit after going undercover himself…he becomes the seventh police officer to be exposed as a police spy in the protest movement.” They are the Guardian’s claims – and we don’t have Lambert’s side of the story – but they are endorsed by at least one of the groups he allegedly infiltrated. The story has been up for nearly 24 hours now and I haven’t heard any denials.

The claims relate mainly to the 1980s and 90s, but the interesting question is whether Lambert has continued to work undercover since supposedly leaving the police. I must say I was always glad to have Lambert as an opponent, simply because his arguments were so easy to unravel. I thought he was just stupid – but maybe he was playing a much cleverer game.

Certainly, Britain’s Islamists are deeply upset and depressed today at the implosion of a man they thought was one of their key advocates. The East London Mosque is hosting an event next month to promote his “ground-breaking research.” I wonder if that one will stay on the calendar much longer?