Families of the seven men, murdered by RAB in Narayanganj, wait with bated breath as the High Court gets ready today to deliver its verdict on the appeals of the convicts.
A Narayanganj court had sentenced 26 people to death, including former RAB 11 chief Tarek Sayeed and local Awami League leader Nur Hossain, on January 16 and handed down various prison terms to nine others.
Former councillor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar were abducted along with five others on April 27, 2014. Their bodies were found floating in the Shitalakkhya River several days later.
Nazrul's family alleged that Nur Hossain, a rival of Nazrul, had bribed RAB for the abduction and murder.
In its verdict, the court dubbed the seven-murder “very scandalous for the nation” as members of an elite force joined hands with civilians for personal benefit.
The court saw the crimes committed by RAB 11 members, including sacked Lt Col Tarek, the son-in-law of Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, Lt Commander Masud Rana and Major Arif Hossain, under individual responsibility, capacity and upon personal interest.
The three officers blamed each other for the crime in their confessional statements, claiming that it was a result of obeying command of “higher-ups”.
Nazrul was under RAB scanner
Former Narayanganj City councillor Nazrul's name was included in a list of criminals prepared by RAB.
Former RAB 11 commanding officer (CO) Tarek claimed that the then RAB additional director general (ADG-operations) handed the list over to him after a CO conference at the RAB headquarters in March 2014.
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File Photo: Police escort ex-RAB officers Lt Col Tarek Syed Mohammad to the Narayanganj district court Mahmud Hossain Opu
The ADG had asked him to arrest Nazrul and hand him over to the headquarters for interrogation. Tarek, in turn, ordered sacked Maj Arif to trace and arrest Nazrul. He also ordered Narayanganj camp commander Rana to assist him, Tarek said in his confessional statement.
But things turned out quite differently.
Arrest or abduction?
Arif, then camp commander of Adamjinagar, who was present at the scene of abduction, killing and dumping of bodies, gave an elaborate account of the incident in his confession.
In presence of all RAB 11 officers in March 2014, Tarek had asked Arif to arrest Nazrul. Arif had failed to nab Nazrul in the past and asked Nur Hossain to provide information about Nazrul.
On the morning of April 27, Nur informed Arif about Nazrul's whereabouts.
Tarek dispatched a RAB team led by Rana. Arif sent two of his men to keep an eye on Nazrul on the Narayanganj court premises but one of them was caught by Nazrul's men. He was later released after showing his ID card.
Around 1pm, Nazrul and four of his associates started for Dhaka when they were stopped by a RAB patrol team. Arif and Rana's cars were following them.
Senior lawyer Chandan's car happened to be passing through the area when RAB members were forcing Nazrul and four others into a microbus. Chandan screamed out seeing what appeared to be an abduction.
As the RAB men did not want any witnesses, they forced Chandan and his driver into another microbus, which was being used by Rana.
The two microbuses headed towards Kanchpur. On their way to Tarabo, Rana got off and went to the CO's office to inform him about the development.
Arif called Tarek over the phone and sought further directives when the CO ordered him to get rid of the men, Arif claimed.
He asked his camp members to prepare seven sacks filled with bricks and started towards Narsingdi camp with the microbuses, apparently to kill time.
Arif and his men parked the vehicles there and had lunch. Then they went to Shibpur and parked the vehicles at a quiet place.
Around 8pm, he called CO Tarek again and requested him to send a truck to carry the bodies. Tarek agreed.
Arif then asked his subordinate Mohiduddin to purchase seven injections, to sedate the captives, and take those to a refuelling station at Kanchpur. Mohiduddin went there on a motorcycle to hand over the injections.
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Picture of the victims of Narayanganj seven-murder Focus Bangla
At the refuelling station, he called Tarek again and requested to send a trawler beneath Kanchpur bridge as it was risky to carry bodies by truck evading police.
Rana, who was a naval officer, arranged the trawler and confirmed it via the CO's official land phone.
Meanwhile, Arif called Nur Hossain to send his men to clear crowd under the Kanchpur bridge. Around 11pm, Arif reached the BIWTA landing point. After about half an hour, brick packs arrived from RAB camp.
Arif informed the CO that they were all set to kill the seven men and dump the bodies. The CO said, “Go ahead.”
Arif and his men gave the victims sedatives and as they fainted, ensured their death by suffocating them with polythene bags. The bodies were then loaded on to the trawler that headed towards the mouth of the Meghna River.
They slashed the abdomens of the victims and tied sacks of bricks to the bodies before dumping them into the river.
Nazrul was the prime target of RAB officers and the others were killed in order to get rid of witnesses.
Tarek claims innocence
The then CO Tarek claimed that he did not know anything about the killing.
He said he had gone to the river terminal after being informed that Arif had conducted an operation after accepting a bribe of Tk5-6 crore.
Arif got off the boat and informed that he had killed all seven men to get rid of witnesses, Tarek claimed.
Tarek sent Arif and his men to RAB headquarters as per order from the higher-ups that night.
Arif blames higherups
Arif said when he was returning from the Meghna, RAB ADG called him several times on his mobile phone around 2am but Arif chose not to pick up.
Instead, Arif said he called his CO so Tarek could call the ADG and inform Arif what was going on. After speaking to the ADG, Tarek called Arif to inform him that the ADG had asked the two of them to meet him at the headquarters.
At the Kanchpur landing area, Arif saw Tarek waiting for him. Tarek assured the RAB members that nothing would happen and sent them along with Arif to the headquarters.
There, The ADG interrogated Arif about Nazrul. Arif said he was surprised to see the RAB ADG did not know anything about the incident.
During the interrogation, Arif said he had told the ADG that Tarek had full knowledge of the matter as the commanding officer.
The ADG then called Tarek. Arif also spoke with Tarek over the phone. Arif claimed that Tarek was also confused over the superior's inquiries.
The ADG at one stage asked Arif to leave the headquarters and he returned to Narayanganj around 5:30am and told the CO everything.
According to Rana's confessional statement, on April 28 Arif had told him that he killed the men inside the microbuses around 12:30am. If the ADG had called him before midnight, the killings would not have taken place.
Second day's interrogation at RAB HQ
Both Tarek Sayeed and Arif in their statements said that on April 29, 2014 they had gone to RAB headquarters and the ADG asked them about Nazrul and Nur Hossain. They said they had told the ADG everything.
Tarek confessed that at the headquarters, the ADG presented records of telephone conversations between Nur Hossain and Arif and asked various questions.
The ADG also asked Arif why he had used Nur Hossain as an informant. Arif replied that he had used Nur as the man was at loggerheads with Nazrul.
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File Photo: Kolkata police take Nur Hossain, one of the accused in Narayanganj seven-murder case, to the court Courtesy
The senior RAB officer also asked Arif why he had maintained continuous contact with Nur over the phone throughout the incident.
After that interrogation, both Tarek and Arif returned to Narayanganj in the afternoon. Tarek, Arif and Rana were withdrawn from RAB and attached to their parent forces.
At one point of his confessional statement, Arif claimed that when he and his commanding officer went to the RAB headquarters, the ADG at one stage asked Arif to find out and kill Nur by that day too.
But Arif claimed that he had replied that the situation in Narayanganj would go out of control if Nur was killed then.
This claim was not supported by any other evidence.
The bribe issue
The Narayanganj court, in its verdict, said the RAB members had carried out the crime in exchange for unspecific benefits. The court, however, did not elaborate.
The allegation that Arif took money to kill Nazrul came up once in Tarek Sayeed's confessional statement.
Tarek claimed that Arif had informed him that he had got calls from the ADG on his way to Kanchpur river terminal. Meanwhile, the ADG also called Tarek and inquired about Arif.
The ADG told Tarek that Arif had carried out the operation in exchange for Tk5-6 crore. The ADG had ordered Tarek to send Arif and his team to the RAB headquarters immediately.
The court said that investigators found no concrete evidence that Nur Hossain paid any RAB officer for the abduction and killing.