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  Asia-Pacific
Bangladesh Executes 5 Killers of Bangabandhu, Ending Its Darkest Chapter
Killers Hanged for Killing Father of Nation after 35 Years
By Ataur Rahman
Bangladesh Correspondent
Bangladesh's Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

DHAKA, Bangladesh — All the five death row convicts of the murder trial of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were hanged in the early hours of Jan. 28, 2010, putting an end to the darkest chapter of the nation's history.

Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Mohiuddin Ahmed (artillery) and ex-Major Bazlul Huda were hanged first as the execution process started at one minute past 12 midnight Wednesday while ex-Lieutenant Colonel Syed Faruq Rahman was the third to be executed minutes later.

Ex-lieutenant colonels, Shahriar Rashid Khan and AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed (lancer), were the last to walk to the gallows while the entire execution process took only 40 minutes to be completed though the country had to wait for 35 years to bring the culprits to justice.

Jail officials emerging from the gallows told newsmen at the main entrance of the high security Dhaka Central Jail that the five were already executed.

Hundreds of onlookers crowded the streets outside the jail where five ambulances arrived expectedly to carry the bodies after those would be handed over to the relatives of the condemned ex-army officers.

Witnesses said a police van reached the jail gate carrying five wooden coffins while another private van came to the scene with two wooden bedsteads which were likely to be used for ablution of the bodies after the execution.

Bangabandhu was killed along with his wife and three sons including 10-year- old Russel in the August 15, 1975 putsch. His daughters, incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, survived the carnage as they were abroad at that time.

A total of 28 people, including domestic staff, were killed when a group of junior army officers stormed Bangabandhu's private residence in a pre-dawn swoop exposing the nation to a longstanding stigma spreading over three and a half decades as the killers were protected for years under a now-defunct infamous indemnity ordinance.

The post-1975 regimes also rewarded many of them with diplomatic assignments abroad and allowing others to float and run political parties at home.

Elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) troops, armed police battalion and plainclothes police took position since yesterday evening around the jail complex reinforcing the regular police and sealed off the streets around the complex for hours.

Jail officials and witnesses said Dhaka district magistrate and deputy commissioner Zillar Rahman, civil surgeon Dr Mushfiqur Rahman and additional district magistrate Avijit Sarkar entered the jail along with Inspector General of Prisons Brigadier General Ashraful Islam witnessed the hanging as their presence were required under the Jail Code.

Home secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar and Dhaka's police commissioner AKM Shahidul Haque also were present during the executions.

Sixty-one close relatives of the five condemned ex-army officers earlier met the death row convicts for the last time and of them the detained two sons of Mohindin Ahmed brought from suburban Kashimpur Central Jail to Dhaka Central Jail to see their father.

The relatives said jail officials asked them on telephone to come to Dhaka Central Jail immediately to meet the death row convicts.

A jail official said a seven-member squad of hangmen from among the convicted prisoners at the Dhaka Central Jail and suburban Kashimpur prison were deployed to carry out the execution.

The developments came within hours as the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court yesterday pronounced its last verdict rejecting the five convicts' petitions seeking a review of their death penalties while Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said the execution might take place any day by January 31 in line with the jail code.

Talking to newsmen emerging from an urgent high profile meeting of concerned fellow ministers and officials, Ahmed said with the Appellate Division's pronouncement of the verdict the last legal option of the 1975 culprits was exhausted ahead of their execution.

"Learned (defence) counsels in all the petitions reiterated the points which were raised and argued in course of the hearing of the appeals (earlier). . . These points are not legal grounds for review of a judgement delivered on merit . . . these review petitions are dismissed," read the order passed by the apex court earlier today.

A four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Tafazzul Islam pronounced the verdict after three days of hearing of the five of the 12 convicted ex-military officers who were in jail to face the death penalty.

Meanwhile, a huge number of extra police and plainclothes police were called out to lay a security blanket around the jail compound in old part of Dhaka city while the senior prison officials declined to entertain phone calls.

The five convicts walked to the gallows after a trial that dragged on for 13 years.

Meanwhile President Zillur Rahman rejected the mercy petition of one of the key men of the August 15 plot, Syed Farooq Rahman, while another three convicts were earlier denied the presidential clemency.

The rest of the convict, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, did not submit any mercy petition to the President, a home ministry statement said.

The trial started only when Hasina came to power in 1996 after spending 21 years in political wilderness and scrapped an indemnity law which was enacted by the post-1975 government to protect the killers.

The original trial court in 1998 found 15 ex-army officers guilty and sentenced them to death but the High Court later acquitted three of them.

Of the remaining 12, five were hanged today, six are fugitives and one died in Zimbabwe.



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Mr. Ataur Rahman serves as Bangladesh Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He earned his Master of Commerce degree from Dhaka University in 1985. Mr. Rahman has vast journalistic experience including his stints at "The Daily Janata" and "The Dainik Bangla."

 

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