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US reopens Bangabandhu killer Rashed Chowdhury’s asylum case

  • Published at 01:39 pm July 25th, 2020
Rashed Chowdhury-Bangabandhu
Rashed Chowdhury, a former Bangladesh Army officer, was convicted for his role in the assassination of Bangabandhu, the founding father and President of Bangladesh Collected

Rashed Chowdhury, a former Bangladesh Army officer, was convicted for his role in the assassination of Bangabandhu, the founding father and President of Bangladesh

The United States has reopened the case of the political asylum of MA Rashed Chowdhury, the fugitive killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

US attorney general William Barr reopened the case, which was closed about 15 years, according to a report published by US-based political news portal Politico, on Friday.

On June 17, Barr directed the Board of Immigration Appeals to send Rashed’s case to him for review, making clear he would reopen the matter. It would seem the Trump administration wants to hand over Rashed Chowdhury to Bangladesh by reopening the case.

The document in which the attorney general made this move doesn’t include Rashed’s name. However, it refers to “the matter of A-M-R-C," using Rashed’s full initials. And the details of the case described in Barr’s announcement match Rashed’s.

From the Politico article it seems that  Barr would first seek to revoke Rashed's permission for political asylum. If successful, the return process will begin.

Barr's move is the first step in a process that could result in Rashed losing asylum and potentially facing deportation after more than a decade.

Politico sought comment on the issue but a Bangladesh embassy spokesperson refused to do so.

A spokesperson of the US Department of Justice also refused to comment, saying the department does not confirm identities of people in such proceedings.

However, a lawyer for Rashed confirmed that the case is of his client.

Rashed's lawyers said they suspect foul play, and that if the US deports him, he is going to be executed.

Bangladesh has been continuing its efforts for years to persuade the US to extradite Rashed and the attorney general's move will delight the government, the report said.

Who is Rashed Chowdhury?

Rashed Chowdhury, a former Bangladesh Army officer, was convicted for his role in the assassination of Bangabandhu, the founding father and President of Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu was assassinated along with all but two of his family on August 15, 1975, at his Dhanmondi house, by a small group of army personnel. His daughters – Sheikh Hasina, now the prime minister, and Sheikh Rehana – survived the massacre as they were abroad.

According to another killer, Syed Farooqur Rahman’s confessional statement to the trial court on December 19, 1996, the officers including Rashed met to finalize the plan on August 14. 

Another confessional statement by Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan in court on December 11, 1996 indicates Rashed was part of the team that attacked the residence of Abdur Rab Serniabat and killed him. 

Shortly after the coup, Bangladesh amended its constitution to grant immunity to the coup’s participants. Rashed was promoted to lieutenant colonel by the regime that followed.

For two decades after the coup, he worked as a diplomat, stationed in Bangladesh’s embassies around the world. 

Then, in 1996, Bangladesh elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, one of Bangabandhu’s surviving daughters and Parliament in 1997 revoked the coup plotters’ immunity. Sheikh Hasina launched a campaign to punish those involved in the killing of the father of the nation.

When Sheikh Hasina was elected, Rashed was the top diplomat at Bangladesh’s embassy in Brazil — and was soon summoned home. 

He left his post and fled to the US when the government recalled him.

Nearly 10 years after he arrived in the US, an immigration judge granted Rashed asylum.

In 1998, 23 years after the assassination, he and other fugitive convicts were sentenced to death by a lower court in Bangladesh.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on November 19, 2009, upheld a High Court verdict, confirming the capital punishment of 12 people, including six in particular, for killing Bangabandhu and most of his family members.

Five of the convicts -- Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed -- were executed on January 27, 2010. Another killer, Aziz Pasha, died in Zimbabwe in 2001.

Those who remain fugitives are: Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury, Abdul Majed, and Moslehuddin Khan.

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