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News Analysis

U.S. Muslim Leader Sentenced to Death for Bangladesh War Crimes

Pakistani supporters of Jamaat-E-Islami burn the American flag (Photo: © Reuters; Inset: Ashrafuzzaman Khan, a U.S. Islamist leader convicted of war crimes connected to Jamaat-E-Islami committed during Bangladesh's war of independence with Pakistan.

Pakistani supporters of Jamaat-E-Islami burn the American flag (Photo: © Reuters; Inset: Ashrafuzzaman Khan, a U.S. Islamist leader convicted of war crimes connected to Jamaat-E-Islami committed during Bangladesh's war of independence with Pakistan.

by: 
Ryan Mauro

The Bangladeshi government has given the death sentence to Ashrafuzzaman Khan, a former Secretary-General of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) that lives in New York, for war crimes he committed during Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan

Khan was tried in absentia as part of a popularly supported crackdown on ICNA’s parent group, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Khan was found guilty of murdering 18 professors, journalists and physicians that were supporting Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. The tribunal ruled that Khan “had de facto reasonable material and authority to control” the executioners. Bangladesh sentenced Khan to death by hanging if he were to be extradited to Bangladesh from America.

A Muslim leader in London named Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was also sentenced to death. Amazingly, he is the director of the British National Health Service’s Muslim Spiritual Care Provision. He also is a trustee for an organization named Muslim Aid that has been accused of having extremist links.

Jamaat-e-Islami, essentially a Muslim Brotherhood branch, set up the Al-Badr militia that ran death squads in Bangladesh during the war of independence. The assassins targeted Bangladeshis that promoted secession from Pakistan, particularly the elite members of the society – doctors, professors and journalists. During the war, the Pakistani government and its allies killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women, according to the Bangladeshi government.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reportedly told Bangladesh that he’d help get Khan extradited so he can be brought to justice. At this stage, the Obama Administration is non-committal.

“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been sentenced by Bangladesh’s war crimes court. We have nothing more to add,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Dhaka. She would not say whether the U.S. would deport or prosecute Khan.

Khan was listed as a member of the executive board of ICNA’s New York chapter until October of this year. He remains listed as a member of the executive committee of the North American Imams Federation and the contact for its northeast regional office. The organization’s head office is in Arizona with regional offices in New York, North Carolina, Michigan and Florida.

ICNA has not addressed the trial and conviction of Khan on its website.

Bangladesh, a country that is close 90% Muslim, has been taking on the Islamists that act in the name of their faith. It elected a secular female in a landslide in 2008, and the population rose up to demand action against Jamaat-e-Islami earlier this year.

That’s the type of Muslim ally that the West needs.

Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.