Friday, August 29, 2008

Major Setback in Jail Killings Case

Source: The Independent
August 29, 2008

The High Court yesterday got down to delivering judgement on appeals along with death references in the 1975 Jail Killings Case, closing long-drawn legal arguments from both sides.

On November 3 in 1975, Syed Nazrul Islam, acting president of Bangladesh government in exile during the Liberation War, Tajuddin Ahmed, prime minister, M Mansur Ali, finance minister, and AHM Qamaruzzaman, minister of home affairs, relief and rehabilitation, were gunned down inside Dhaka Central Jail by a raiding cabal of army-men.

The killings, seen as a desperate bid of power usurpers, came amid a political vortex 79 days after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family on August 15, 1975.

A designated death-reference Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury and Justice M Ataur Rahman Khan, began spelling out the judgement after 2pm today. Nearly four years before, on October 20, 2004, the trial court sentenced three rankers to death and awarded life imprisonment to 12 midlevel army officers for the bloodletting.

It had acquitted four politicians and an army officer in the long-awaited verdict of the historic Jail Killings Case. The trial court awarded capital punishment to Risalder (retd) Muslemuddin, Dafadar (dismissed) Marfat Ali Shah and Dafadar (dismissed) Abul Hashem Mridha-all on the run for long.

Those who were awarded life imprisonment for abetting the assassins are Lt Col (dismissed) Syed Farook Rahman, Lt Col (retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Maj (retd) Bazlul Huda, Lt Col (dismissed) Khondaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Huq Dalim, Lt Col (retd) SHMB Noor Chowdhury, Maj (Retd) AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Lt Col (retd) AM Rashed Chowdhury, Major (relieved) Ahmed Sharful Hossain, Capt (retd) Abdul Mazed, Captain (relieved) Kismat Hashem, and Captain (relieved) Nazmul Hossain Ansar.

Of the dozen lifers, Farook, Shahriar, Huda and AKM Mohiuddin are in jail, with death sentences also hanging over their heads for the murder of the country's founding father. The rest remained absconding.

The four were sentenced to death in the Bangabandhu Murder Case, following the scrapping of the Indemnity Ordinance by the Awami League government of Sheikh Hasina.

Those exonerated were three then BNP leaders-KM Obaidur Rahman (dead), Shah Moazzem Hossain and Nurul Islam Manzoor-Taheruddin Thakur and additional secretary of foreign ministry Maj (Retd) Khairuzzaman.

The infamous Indemnity Ordinance had blocked the investigation and trial of the killings for about 21 years until the law was scrapped during the 1996-2001 Awami League regime. The belated trial was also delayed for repeated interventions by governments and judicial tangles.

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