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Jamaat lobbying against war crimes trials again

  • Published at 09:48 pm September 14th, 2014

Jamaat-e-Islami, many of whose top leaders have been convicted for 1971 crimes, has once again launched a campaign to influence US policymakers against the ongoing trial of war crimes in Bangladesh, spending thousands of dollars.

In March and April this year, two pro-Jamaat organisations based in the USA hired two lobbyist firms to work for engaging the US Congress in condemning the actions of the war crimes tribunal and raise public awareness among the US public.

One of the organisations is called the “Organisation for Peace and Justice.” According to a news report aired by Bangladeshi private broadcaster Maasranga Television last week, the Organisation for Peace and Justice is located at 252A Lake Avenue in Staten Island of New York.

The Massranga reporter found that in the same building there are two other firms named Rosedale Mir Development, Inc and Diganta Media USA. Registration papers show that both these firms are owned by

Mir Masum Ali, brother of Jamaat leader and war crimes accused Mir Kashem Ali.

From the website of the US justice department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act, the Dhaka Tribune has obtained the registration statements of Cassidy & Associates, a top US lobbying firm, who has been hired by the Organisation for Peace and Justice.

The registration details of Cassidy with Organisation for Peace and Justice Inc can be accessed at http://www.fara.gov/docs/6214-Exhibit-AB-20140415-2.pdf.

The document reads that Cassidy will “engage members of the US Congress to support a congressional resolution condemning the actions of the ICT [International Crimes Tribunal] and to use best efforts to include anti-ICT legislative language” in the legislative bodies.

Another document available on the website says “sympathisers of the Jamaat-e-Islami political party are directors/employees of the Organisation for Peace and Justice Inc and the mission of the principal benefits the party and its members in Bangladesh.”

Similar registration documents revealed that Cassidy had sub-contracted two other firms named Cloakroom Advisors and Kglobal. Both firms have been appointed to carry out the same tasks as Cassidy; but in addition, they would “conduct outreach to the Department of State (South and Central Asia Bureau and International Operations).”

Service contracts attached with the registration statements show that the Organisation for Peace and Justice will be paying Cassidy & Associates a total of $50,000 over a period of three months as a charge for lobbying.

An extension of the contract paper reads that Cassidy’s initiatives “are intended to cooperate with international partners to pressure the government of Bangladesh to suspend ICT proceedings.”

Once before in 2011, months after the International Crimes Tribunal had launched investigation into allegations of war crimes against top Jamaat leaders, Mir Kashem Ali and his brother Mir Masum Ali hired Cassidy & Associates for $310,000 for influencing US politicians and government officials against the tribunal proceedings.

Cassidy’s website says the fee paid by Kashem in the first quarter of 2011 was among the largest quarterly fees incurred by any of Cassidy’s 140 clients that year. Only about a dozen clients paid more.

The second pro-Jamaat organisation that is lobbying against the war crimes trial in the USA is called the Human Rights Development in Bangladesh (HRDB).

When contacted over phone by the Maasranga reporter, Mir Masum Ali refused to make any comment and advised to talk to his organisation’s spokesperson Dr Naqibur Rahman, son of another war crimes accused Jamaat leader Motiur Rahman Nizami.

It was later found that Naqibur had links with the HRDB, who in December 2013 organised a media conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

During that conference, he told reporters: “I’m here in front of you because I believe the government of Bangladesh is basically setting the stage to judicially murder my father Motiur Rahman Nizami.”

Naqibur has organised several rallies in the USA trying to build a protest against the war crimes trial.

In March this year, just a month before Cassidy was hired, the HRDB appointed another lobbyist firm Just Consulting LLC which was later renamed to Grieboski Global Strategies.

Documents show that Grieboski is tasked with reaching and influencing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the department of state and the US Congress against the war crimes trials.

In April 2013, the then Bangladesh law minister Shafique Ahmed told parliament that Jamaat leader Mir Kashem Ali had paid $25m to an American lobbyist firm to make the war crimes trial questionable and controversial. He also claimed that the government had proof of that and documents related to the dealing were to reach their hands soon.

The Maasranga report also said the Bangladesh government had hired a US lobbyist firm named BGR Government Affairs for a monthly fee of $25,000.

On behalf of the Bangladesh government, that firm is supposed to work towards achieving specific political objectives by building connections with the US politicians and the civil society.

Lobbying in the USA describes paid activities in which special interests hire well-connected lawyers to argue for specific legislation and resolutions in decision-making bodies such as the congress.

The US lobbying business, which was worth over $30bn in 2011, has often been highly criticised by journalists and the American public.

In August this year, US Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J Rapp came to Dhaka and blatantly spoke against

the trial of Jamaat, which allegedly committed crimes against humanity as an organisation during the Liberation War.

Months ago, the International Crime Tribunal in Bangladesh kept the war crimes cases against both Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Kashem Ali waiting for verdict. They have been accused of several counts of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War.

Nizami is the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami and Kashem is an executive council member who also looks after the financial matters of the party.

According to documents that his lawyers have placed with the ICT during trial, Kashem is the chairman of Keari Ltd, a real estate and tourism company, chairman of the managing committee of Diganta Media Corporations that runs Diganta TV and the daily Naya Diganta.

He is also a founding member of Ibn Sina Trust, member secretary of the Islami Bank Foundation and a founding member of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited.