The government does not know yet the whereabouts of three of five absconding killers
The full execution of the verdict of the case over the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, remains remote, as the nation prepares to solemnly observe yet another National Mourning Day on August 15.
It has been almost twelve years since the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court paved the way for the execution of 12 convicted former personnel of the Bangladesh Army for the assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family on August 15, 1975.
But, the verdict is yet to be fully implemented, as it has not been possible to bring back five absconders to face justice. The government efforts so far to bring the fugitives back do not appear to have been a success.
As of now, no one knows when it will be possible to bring back the fugitive killers. To make the matter even worse, the government is yet to trace three of the five fugitives.
Last year, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen had expressed hope of bringing back Rashed Chowdhury, one of the absconding killers, from the US before March 2021, after the then US attorney general had reopened the fugitive’s asylum case.
But, that did not happen. Now that a new administration has assumed office in the US, the status of that case is currently unknown.
On November 19, 2009, the Appellate Division upheld the death penalty for 12 convicted former army officers in the Bangabandhu assassination case.
Since then, six killers -- Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Abdul Majed -- were hanged to death.
The last person to be executed was Majed, who used to live in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. He was arrested in Dhaka on April 7, 2020, and hanged at the Dhaka Central Jail at 12:01am on April 12.
Another convict, Aziz Pasha, met a natural death in Zimbabwe in 2001.
Of the remaining fugitives, Rashed Chowdhury is in the US and Noor Chowdhury in Canada. The whereabouts of Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, and Moslehuddin remain unknown.
‘All-out efforts are on’
When contacted, Foreign Minister Momen told Dhaka Tribune that the government was doing all it could to execute the full verdict in the case.
“We are making all-out efforts to bring back the fugitive killers,” he said.
Responding to a question, the minister said: “We do not know where three out of five killers are at the moment. We need help from you [journalists] and our expatriate Bangladeshis in this regard."
Bangladeshi missions abroad have been instructed to try to find out the whereabouts of these absconders, he added.
About Rashed being in the US and Noor in Canada, he said: “We are in constant touch with both Washington and Ottawa in connection with their repatriation. We are doing what is necessary.”
Two senior Foreign Ministry officials told this correspondent that the government raised the issue of repatriation of Rashed and Noor at every opportunity with the US and Canadian governments.
Aside from diplomatic efforts, the government is also trying legally to bring back the duo, they said.
The officials, however, have pointed out that domestic laws of the US and Canada are not helping the Bangladesh efforts.
For instance, they said, the issue of Rashed Chowdhury is under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Justice, which is perceived to be independent when it comes to making a decision while the Canadian law does not allow sending back any foreign national who faces the death penalty in his or her country.
About the whereabouts of the three other fugitives, the officials said that it was a mammoth task, as Bangladesh lacked the ability with respect to gathering intelligence about them.
However, the government is working with the international law enforcing organizations and agencies of the friendly governments and trying to find the trio, they said.