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Letters from India
Bangladesh Readies to Hang Bangabandhu Killers
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
Bangabandhu — Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 17, 1920 – August 15, 1975) was a Bengali politician and the founding leader of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, generally considered in the country as the father of the Bangladeshi nation.

The days for the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder-president of People's Republic of Bangladesh and also the Father of the Nation, who led 1971 liberation war have been numbered.

Mujib, who was popularly known as Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) was killed with almost all his family members within four years of the successful completion of the freedom movement.

The count down has already started for the convicted as the court has signed the death warrants. Following the final verdict of the Supreme Court (of Bangladesh), the District and Sessions Judge of Dhaka Abdul Gafar signed the death warrants of five detained convicts on January 3 and already been served to them in Dhaka central jail, where they are being imprisoned.

In the deadly assassination attempt by a group of army officers in his private residence at Dhanmondi in Dhaka on August 15, 1975, the killers did not spare Sheikh Mujib’s wife Fazilatunessa Mujib, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russell, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal and Rosy Jamal, and his brother Sheikh Naser.

Only two daughters of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina (the present Bangladesh PM) and Sheikh Rehana escaped as they were out of the country at that time.

The apex court of the country had confirmed the death sentence to 12 convicts in the sensitive case. Rejecting the appeals of five former army officers, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (in its final judgement pronounced on November 19, 2009) upheld the High Court’s verdict sentencing all the 12 retired or dismissed army officers to death on the charge of murdering Sheikh Mujib.

The five convicts who are behind the bar and waiting for gallows include Muhiuddin Ahmed, Syed Faruque Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda (repatriated from Thailand ) and AKM Mohiuddin (repatriated from the United States).

Other convicts, who are hiding in different countries (arguably in Libya, Belgium, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong, Canada) include Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, AM Rashed Chowdhury, Abdul Mazed, Risaldar Mosleuddin Khan, and Noor Chowdhury (to be deported from Canada). One convict Abdul Aziz Pasha took political asylum in Zimbabwe and he died there in 2001.

The assassination of Bangabandhu had resulted many ups and down in the Bangladesh politics. Soon after the gory incident, the Mujib led Awami League government was dismissed and Khondker Mushtaque Ahmed took over as the President. Later he promulgated an Indemnity Ordinance on September 26, 1975 with an aim to stop of the trial of Mujib killing case.

In fact, the next ten years witnessed very much slow progress in the investigation. The subsequent regimes led by Ziaur Rahman, HM Ershad, Begum Khaleda Zia etc did not show interest to reopen the case. Rather many of the accused army officers were awarded with diplomatic assignments outside the country.

Then the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina again came to power in Dhaka during June, 1996. The AL government immediately scrapped the Indemnity Ordinance (later Act) and cleared the way to bring the killers to justice. In the meantime, the First Information Report on the murder was lodged at the Dhanmondi police station on October 2, 1996. The Criminal Investigation Department soon took up the case and started investigation promptly.

After the CID submitted its charge sheet against 20 accused on in January 1997, the trial of case (in the court of Dhaka District and Sessions Judge) started from March 12 in the same year. Later the case reached to the High Court and also the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, where the final verdict was pronounced in November last year.

The Bangladesh government has already launched a diplomatic campaign to bring those fugitives back to the country. Moreover the Interpol also issued red alert to nab them as early as possible. The Bangladesh home minister Sahara Khatun assured the people that Dhaka would adopt all possible measures to bring the killers back to justice.

The final verdict of Supreme Court on the case, as expected, received overwhelm responses from various political parties, civil society groups, media and common people in general of Bangladesh. Most of the group and individuals publicly demanded an early execution of the verdict of the apex court.

The Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association termed the verdict as an epoch-making development in history to establish the rule of law in the country. The bar association urged the government to publish a white paper on those who were beneficiary of the killing of Bangabandhu. It also asked the government to bring the absconding convicts of the Bangabandhu murder case back to the country immediately and to execute their death sentences.

‘The Hindu’, an acclaimed Indian newspaper, commented in an editorial that ‘a large section of the people considered the coup and the assassination as part of a sinister and determined plot to turn the nation away from the path of socialism, democracy, nationalism, and secularism’.

“If Bengali nationalism was the guiding spirit of the liberation
struggle, a form of Bangladeshi nationalism, with stress on religious identity, was being sought to be established. The most significant outcome of the Supreme Court’s verdict should therefore be a reaffirmation of the dream of 1971,” it asserted.

A prominent English newspaper from Dhaka, ‘The Independent’ highlighted about the post- Bangabandhu assassination scenario in an editorial revealing that ‘there was nobody to protest the killings’.

“Even the police refused to register a criminal case. The people who usurped state power rewarded the killers with prized diplomatic jobs.

Not only that they were also given legal protection under the
notorious Indemnity Act,” added in the editorial.

It concluded saying that ‘although we will never get back the great leader who had led us to independence and freedom but at least we will have the consolation of seeing justice done to the perpetrators of this horrendous crime’.

The same annoyance was also reflected in the version of Sheikh Hasina, while she commented, "The killers forgot, a judge is there above all, who sees everything.”

She did not hide her anger with the ‘misleading campaign to glorify the killings’ by a section in the society after the assassination of Bangabandhu.

“They even officially declared-we killed Sheikh Mujib, dare you try us,” Hasina disclosed. Otherwise, both she and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana expressed happiness that ‘the trial has finally ended after 34 years with justice established’.

Soon after the verdict, the Amnesty International appealed Dhaka ‘not to execute the condemned convicts’ in Mujib killing. The UK-based human rights watchdog said in statement, “The killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members were grave human rights abuses, and those who committed them should be brought to justice.

However, bringing people to justice must not itself violate the human rights of the accused.”

Amnesty International argues that it ‘opposes the death penalty in all cases regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner’.

The rights body has also called upon the Bangladesh President Zilur Rahman (and PM Sheikh Hasina) to use the constitutional power with an aim to stop the execution of the convicted army officials.

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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