Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina  has said the defeated forces once again are out to foil the process of war rimes trial through misusing people's religious sentiments and militancy.

The Prime Minister said this while handing over Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanana (Bangladesh Liberation War Honour) and Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana (Friends of Liberation War Honour) to 69 more foreign friends for their outstanding support and contributions to the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation 42 years back.

She ceremonially handed over the awards to 69 'foreign friends' or their representatives at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital Dhaka on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Capt (retd) AB Tajul Islam, and Professor Tomio Mizokami of Japan, on behalf of the award-recipient, also spoke at the function, while Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hussain Bhuiyan read out citations of the award recipients.

"When Bangladesh is making remarkable advancement, when the long-standing process of the trial of the war crimes is at the juncture of desired culmination, the defeated forces once again are out to mar the process through misusing people's religious sentiments and militancy," she said.

The Prime Minister said the people of Bangladesh never accepted such design in the past and will not allow so in the future as they are religious-minded, but not bigots.

Sheikh Hasina said the spirit of liberation war always keeps the people awaken and they are committed to building a prosperous and non-communal Bangladesh free from hunger, poverty and illiteracy.

Sheikh Hasina sought support of the friends of liberation war to build a prosperous and non-communal Bangladesh free from hunger, poverty and illiteracy, as they did in 1971 to materialise the aspiration of Bangalees.

Expressing sincere gratitude to the 'foreign friends' for their unequivocal support to Bangladesh's independence, the Prime Minister said the Pakistani occupation forces launched coordinated armed attacks on unarmed Bangalees on the night of 25th March in 1971.

She said the heroic people rose to face the situation and commenced a historic struggle for national independence on 26 March 1971 at the call of Bangabandhu.

"Our people were subjected to all kinds of crime against humanity, rape and arson included. They, inspired by their leader, stood up in courage and snatched victory through a glorious War of Liberation," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said as the nation honours its heroes today, it reaffirms its faith in the principles it stood for. "We recommit ourselves to noble ideas and principles – equity, democracy and democratic practice, inclusive development, social justice and the rule of law.”

Cuban President Dr Fidel Castro Ruz and former UK Prime Minister Lord Harold Wilson. Cuban Ambassador in Dhaka Abelardo Cueto Sosa and Professor Robin Wilson, son of Harold Wilson, received the awards on behalf of Castro and Lord Wilson respectively.

Those who were awarded Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana included former chief minister of West Bengal late Jyoti Basu, Pakistan politician Begum Nasim Akhtar, former chief of army staff of India Shankar Roy Chowdhury, Indian magician PC Sarker Junior, Nepalese politician Dr Narayan Khadka, former Nepalese minister and Congress leader Dr Ram Saran Mahat, Pakistani lawyer Zafar Malik, Indian human rights activist Utpala Misra, Japanese professors and social workers Tomio Mizokami and Heizi Nakamura,former GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, India Lt General Jagjit Singh Arora, Pakistan human rights activist Begum Tahira Mazhar Ali, writer and philosopher of India Abu Sayid Ayub,

former Indian minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, poet and journalist of Pakistan Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Australian professor Herbert Faith, poet and social worker of the United States Allen Ginseberg, poet and politician of Pakistan Habib Jalib,politician and filmmaker of Pakistan Shamim Ashraf Malik,Pakistan professor and journalist Waris Meer, Pakistan politician Kazi Faiz Mohammad, Indian journalist Jitendra Chandra Pal, poet and human rights activist of Pakistan Ahmad Salim, former Indian information and broadcasting minister Nandini Satpaty.

Each of the awardees received a crest and a citation from the hand of the Prime Minister. This was the fifth such ceremony since the Awami League government started honouring foreign friends on July 25, 2011, as a mark of the nation's gratitude to them.

At the outset of the function, a minute's silence was observed as a mark of respect to the memory of late PresidentMd Zillur Rahman.

BBN/SSR/AD-25Mar13-10:40 am (BST)