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US citizen of Bangladeshi origin arrested for 1971 ‘war crimes’ | News

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A United States citizen of Bangladeshi descent has been arrested in Bangladesh for allegedly committing war crimes, including “murder and rape”, during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Mohamed Jubair Monir, 62, was arrested despite official documents purportedly showing he was only 13 when Bangladesh was liberated.

His family also claims he did not live in the country for most of the duration of the nine-month war.

Monir was picked up by the police on December 19 from his house in a village in Sunamganj district in north Bangladesh and is being held in Keraniganj jail on the outskirts of capital Dhaka.





Monir’s (on the right) family shared this picture, claiming it was taken in 1973 [David Bergman/Al Jazeera]

His family said he was arrested on political grounds after meeting a leader from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who contested the national elections held last month.

“Monir has been swept up in the hysteria of the recent Bangladeshi election, which has been widely condemned for their irregularities and human rights violations,” said Jason Emert, the family’s lawyer.

“[He] is innocent of the crimes and must be released immediately. His politically motivated arrest is an affront to the already tarnished democratic process in Bangladesh.”

War crimes tribunal

Monir will be tried by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a national court established by Bangladesh in 2010 to prosecute those accused of war crimes in 1971

Bangladesh was formed in 1971 following a war with Pakistan since the then East Pakistan, initially called East Bengal, believed power was concentrated in the West.

An estimated 300,000 to three million people were killed and some 200,000 women raped during the war, cases related to which are now being heard by the ICT.

But the tribunal has been widely criticised by rights groups for lack of due process and bias, with one calling for the trials to be “suspended” because of “well-founded fears about fundamental unfairness in the pre-trial and trial stages”.

The tribunal has convicted 75 men, sentencing 53 of them to death. Six of those death sentences have so far been carried out.

Prosecutor Zead-ul-Malum told Al Jazeera that Monir was accused of “killings, confinement, rape, arson, and looting” in the areas of Shala and Derai in Sunamganj during the 1971 war.

“He was a member of the Razakar Bahini,” he said, referring to the force established by the Pakistani military to fight those who supported the creation of an independent Bangladesh.

Malum denied the prosecutors were targeting people linked to the opposition political parties.

“When we prosecute, we are guided by law and due process,” he stated. “I will not prosecute anyone because of their politics. But those who committed crimes during 1971 will be prosecuted, whatever their political beliefs.”

Malum said the investigation was almost over. “We are verifying some of the materials we have collected.”

Monir’s daughter Srabon Monir told Al Jazeera her father was a small businessman who had been living in the US since 1982 and became a US citizen in 1991.

“He rents two stores in Brooklyn in New York, where he lives and owns two farms, but he also has some business interests in Bangladesh, including an office block, a rice mill and a fishery,” she said.

She said her father left New York on November 18, 2018 to travel to Bangladesh and was due to return on January 7.

“I received a call on December 18 from my uncle to say he had been arrested. I was shocked,” she said.





Official documents shared by Monir’s family show he was 13 in 1971 [David Bergman/Al Jazeera]

‘He was 13 years old in 1971’

Srabon shared with Al Jazeera copies of her father’s birth certificate, his US naturalisation certificate and passport to show he was born on January 3, 1958 and had just turned 13 when the war started.





Monir has been a US citizen since 1991 [David Bergman/Al Jazeera]

“How could he have committed war crimes when he was 13 years of age?” she asked.

Srabon also said for most of the nine-month war, her father was not living in East Pakistan [later Bangladesh], where the conflict took place.

“Since 1969, when he was 11, he had been living with his uncle in Lahore in [then West] Pakistan, going to school there, and did not return to Bangladesh until October 1971, two months before the war ended,” she said, though she did not have any evidence to back her claim.

On Monir’s age and location during the 1971 war, ICT prosecutor Malum said, “He may claim this. If they have any facts, his lawyer can come forward to the tribunal.”

Srabon acknowledged her grandfather, Abdul Khalique Monir, a well-known local politician in 1971, collaborated with the Pakistani military during the war and this could explain why the tribunal investigators arrested her father.

“I have been brought up with this story, that is also well-known in the area, that after the Pakistan military surrendered on December 16, 1971, pro-independence forces killed my grandfather along with 96 other men, all of whom had given themselves up,” she told Al Jazeera.

Malum said allegations of this kind should be given to the tribunal.

Meanwhile, the US consular authorities have not been allowed to meet Monir, who is expected to be brought before the ICT for the first time on January 20.

“Embassy officials should meet Monir as soon as possible and not allow the tribunal to hold him as a hostage,” his US lawyer Jason Emert said.

“They should demand the unconditional release of Monir, an American citizen, and see to it that he is able to return home to his family in the United States at once,” he added.

Monir was arrested 11 days before the Bangladesh national elections – widely considered to have been rigged – when opposition activists were routinely harassed by the police with many people arbitrarily arrested.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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