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Bangabandhu's trial "-outrage to every concept of international law": Kennedy

By Syed Shukur Ali and Asraful Huq

DHAKA, March 22, 2015 (BSS) - The then US Senator Edward M Kennedy termed the secret trial of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman inside the jail of Pakistan "as an outrage to every concept of international law."

Addressing a news conference in New Delhi on August 16, 1971, after spending four days touring the then East Pakistan's refugee camps in India, Kennedy said, "The only crime of Mujib is guilty of winning an election."

The Massachusetts Democrat also criticized the secret trial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, saying that the secret aspect of the trial "is an outrage to every concept of international law"

The Sheikh's election victory preceded the takeover of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani Army, he also said.

The Washington Post on August 17 in 1971 published a news article on the Kennedy's visit to India, titled "Kennedy Charges Genocide in Pakistan, Urges Aid Cutoff."

Kennedy charged that Pakistan had committed genocide in East Pakistan.

He, however, called for a complete cutoff of the American Military and economic aid to Pakistan until the strife in the eastern part of the country ends. He also criticized the US policy of supplying arms to Pakistan and appearing to side with Pakistan as "injurious to Indo-American relations."

Another report on the same issue titled "Kennedy, In India, Terms Pakistani Drive Genocide" and written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner journalist Sydney H. Schanberg was published in The New York Times on August 17 in 1971.

In the report, Schanberg wrote, "The crisis erupted on March 25 (1971), when the Pakistani army, composed of West Pakistanis, launched a surprise offensive to try to crush the Bengali independence movement in East Pakistan."

Kennedy said US President Richard Nixon's policy "baffles me---and after seeing the results in terms of human misery, I think it's an ever greater disaster."

The Pakistan army arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmandi residence at the smallest hour of March 26, 1971, after he had declared the Independence and soon he was whisked away to Dhaka cantonment.

On March 26, he was flown to Pakistan as a prisoner. The same day, General Yahya Khan, in a broadcast banned the Awami League and called Bangabandhu a traitor.

Earlier, between August and September in 1971, the Pakistani junta held a secret trial of Bangabandhu inside Lyallpur jail in Pakistan, sentencing the Great Leader to death.

The War of Liberation continued till the humiliating surrender of the coward Pakistani army at the Historic Race Course Maidan on December 16, 1971. After around three weeks, the Pakistan government freed Bangabandhu on January 8, 1972. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by then Pakistani's President, saw off the undisputed leader of the newly independent Bangladesh at Rawalpindi airport.

The same day Bangabandhu left for London en route to Dhaka. In London, British Prime Minister Edward Heath met him. On his way back home from London, Bangabandhu had a stopover in New Delhi, where he was received by Indian President V.V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandi.

People in millions stood in lines with bouquets as well as big and miniature flags of Bangladesh on both sides of the road to the Tejgaon airport to welcome the Hero, who came in a British Airways flight on January 10, 1972 to his motherland, by then completely independent and sovereign.

From the airport, the Father of the Nation went straight to the Race Course ground where he made a tearful address before the nation. That was the venue, from where he first on March 7, 1971, declared, "the struggle this time is the struggle for freedom, the struggle this time is the struggle for independence."