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Friday, December 28, 2012
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Tension with Turkey

Dhaka surprised as Gul calls upon Zillur to pardon war crimes accused

Diplomatic tension has been created between Dhaka and Ankara over Turkish President Abdullah Gul's letter to President Zillur Rahman calling for "clemency" to the accused under trial in the International Crimes Tribunal for the "sake of peace in the society".

Gul requested clemency for Ghulam Azam and the other accused, foreign ministry sources said.

Tension intensified as Ankara summoned yesterday Bangladesh Ambassador to Turkey Md Zulfiqur Rahman, a day after Dhaka summoned Turkish Ambassador in Bangladesh Mehmet Vakur Erkul on Wednesday.

The foreign ministry sources told The Daily Star yesterday that content of the December 23 letter from the Turkish president is not acceptable and it is a clear interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh.

Gul said the accused leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami are too old to stand trial and apprehended that it might cause a civil war in Bangladesh, the sources mentioned.

Dhaka was surprised to get such a letter and was going to send a reply to the Turkish president, but it was delayed because of the president's illness.

Subsequently, the visit of a 14-member delegation of Turkish NGO Cansuyu Aid and Solidarity Association from December 20 to 24 hiding their identity and misusing “on arrival visa” facilities and its inappropriate activities have made Dhaka too unhappy.

The foreign ministry summoned the Turkish envoy in Dhaka and asked him to explain the NGO team's visit without informing the government.

Acting Foreign Secretary Mustafa Kamal also handed over an aide memoir (diplomatic letter) to the ambassador in which Dhaka strongly protested Gul's letter and said it was an interference in the internal affairs of the country.

The aide memoir categorically mentioned that Bangladesh government is determined to conduct the war crimes trial as there is overwhelming support from the people.

It said the trial is taking place in the most transparent way by maintaining international standard, and categorically stated that the government will not compromise on this specific issue.

The two-page letter also mentioned the visit of the Turkish NGO delegation which it said misused the “on arrival visa” facility.

“Bangladesh believes that it is not the job of a friendly country to create any problem or confusion about an issue and hopes that this type of incident will not happen again,” the letter stated.

In 2009, Dhaka unilaterally offered “on arrival visa” for tourist, investor, business, official, diplomatic and special passport holders, while Ankara approved on arrival visa only for official and diplomatic passport holders from the middle of this year.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, some foreign ministry officials said the government could have sent back the NGO delegation but it refrained from doing so considering the excellent bilateral ties with Turkey and the recent exchange of visits at president and prime minister level.

They said the Turkish envoy has violated certain diplomatic norms and he can be expelled as he did not give prior information to the government about arrival of the delegation and subsequently he concealed information about its programmes and schedules.

The ambassador did not inform the foreign ministry about the delegation's meeting with leaders of BNP and Jamaat and others as well as its visit to the ICT.

A senior official said during the meeting with acting foreign secretary, the envoy claimed that the delegation's visit was not sponsored by the Turkish government, but he failed to give a satisfactory reply when asked why he accompanied the team during meetings with the opposition leaders.

Asked, a senior official that despite the tension, the existing bilateral relations with Turkey will not be affected and "our cooperation in all sectors will continue".

However another foreign ministry source told The Daily Star last night that the Turkish president wrote the letter both to the president and prime minister on December 23 and the Turkish embassy sent it to foreign ministry and the ministry subsequently sent it to Bangabhaban and PMO.

Sources said the Turkish president in his one-page letter, written in Turkish language and attached with English translation, requested Zillur not to give death sentence to Ghulam Azam and other Jamaat leaders.

President Gul said they came to know former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam is being tried at the International Crimes Tribunal. It is learnt that this 90-year-old leader might be sentenced to death. Some other elderly leaders are also facing trial, which is a matter of great concern.

According to the Turkish president, if these leaders are punished, it might affect Bangladesh's socio-economic advancement and cause social instability and bloodshed.

Dhaka considered Gul's letter as the first ever interference since the ICT was formed in 2010, the sources said.

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This is a useless fight that this AL government picking up with a powerful country for no apparent gain or reasons. The whole episode is ridiculously non-significant and like much ado about nothing.

: Roni Rahman

What else can you expect from a country which treats its Kurdish population as second class citizens and never apologized for the killing of millions of Armenians in the 1920's.

: Nick Amir

Comments

  • Tirtho Mahmud
    Friday, December 28, 2012 12:37 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Turkey has her own bloody past of Armenian massacre, with which she is yet to come to terms. So, it's understandable why Turkey is always concerned about creation of precedence of war crimes tribunal in countries like Bangladesh.

  • Shabbir A Bashar
    Friday, December 28, 2012 12:57 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Picking a fight with Turkey is not a wise move. An international trial is by definition not bound by national jurisdiction.

  • An Observer
    Friday, December 28, 2012 01:07 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Turkey is a friendly country and wishes Bangladesh well. Bangladesh has much to loose for any tension, diplomatic or other type. President Gul's advice should be listened to very carefully, especially when many international communities consider this trial politically highly motivated and lacks legal and moral acclamation.

  • ShamimH
    Friday, December 28, 2012 01:16 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    We can explain to the uninformed people of Turkey that one of histories genocide was committed in the lands of East Bengal in 1971, with 3 million (National Geographic, Sept. 1972) people murdered. But then these Turks committed similar genocide on the Armenians. So we should not expect much understanding in return. However, it is very important that these criminals of 1971 be brought to justice and we should never bow to any one who tells us otherwise.

  • Dev Saha
    Friday, December 28, 2012 01:29 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    This interference is pretty obscene. Should mass murderers and criminals be saved from prosecution because they are too old? Is that how Turkey deals with its Kurdish problems? Practice as you preach!

  • Shah Deeldar
    Friday, December 28, 2012 01:34 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    It is high time to send a strong message to Turkey to stop meddling into another country's judicial proceedings. How odd and obnoxious!

  • rch
    Friday, December 28, 2012 02:54 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    How about just saying yes we understand your concern but Bangladesh is doing everything possible to provide a fair process. It is our duty to bring the traitors to justice to establish precedence so that it does not happen again---why was it so difficult to send such a generic and standard reply without creating a diplomatic fiasco?

  • msn
    Friday, December 28, 2012 03:57 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    A convoluting diplomacy indeed! The government should be more careful in handling the interference of other countries.

  • Asad Zaman
    Friday, December 28, 2012 06:05 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Excess of anything is bad. On-arrival-visa for every category of people often creates this kind of problem. In a bilateral relationship, visa and other regulations should be reciprocal and proportionate. Turkey is a friendly country, but they have different regulation in this regard. When Ankara approves on arrival visa only for official and diplomatic passport holders, Dhaka should follow suit, and it should be the policy.

  • Nazrul M Islam
    Friday, December 28, 2012 08:04 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    After reading this news item it seems to me the bureaucrats and politicians are always make things complicated. It is not unprecedented that foreign governments sometimes request the friendly governments to pardon convicted prisoners. Bangladesh government can firmly deny the request because of the nature of the crime. Moreover how the president can pardon death penalty when Ghulam Azam has not been proven guilty of any crime yet.

  • Talat Islam
    Friday, December 28, 2012 08:47 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    This simply shows how active the criminals of liberation war are to save their necks. This should strengthen our resolve to try them. If turkey is so bent to be on the wrong side then we should severe our ties with them.

  • jahan ara
    Friday, December 28, 2012 09:24 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh should recall its ambassador to Turkey at once and put bilateral relations into deep freeze. No more on arrival visa to any Turkish national.

  • Asad Zaman
    Friday, December 28, 2012 10:35 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    If clemency to the War-Criminals is asked for the sake of peace in the society, why are Syrians (the nearest neighbour of Turkey) and Afghans suffering the bloody, devastating war for so long? Why can’t one party show clemency to the criminals and stop those wars for the sake of peace in the society?

  • Sahed Ali
    Friday, December 28, 2012 10:38 AM GMT+06:00 (69 weeks ago)

    Shame on the Turkish's government for its stand on War Criminals and its request for clemency to the accused!


 

 


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