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Bangabandhu's only crime was winning 1970's election, said Kennedy

DHAKA, March 16, 2016 (BSS) - The then US Senator Edward M Kennedy described winning of general election in 1970 was the only crime of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to put him behind the bar and hold his secret trial inside the Pakistan jail.

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 (in 1970)."

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

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 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 alleged 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 surrender of the 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, the then Pakistani President, saw off the undisputed leader of the newly independent Bangladesh at Rawalpindi airport.