28th May 15:22
Verdict In Dhaka's 1975 Jail Killings Case
Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Bangladesh death sentences given
The 30-year-old case of four murdered Bangladeshi politicians has
finally ended with death sentences for three former junior military
A court in Dhaka sentenced the men, all of whom are on the run, for
killing the aides of assassinated president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a
prison in 1975.
Twelve senior officers, 11 of whom have already been sentenced to
death for killing Rahman, were given life terms.
Five people were acquitted of killing the politicians.
Only three of the 12 officers given life sentences were in the dock,
the others are also on the run.
The five acquitted defendants - four politicians and an officer - had
been given bail and were in court to hear the verdict.
All the defendants who appeared for the trial had denied all the
charges. Police believe most of those who absconded have left the
The main opposition party, the Awami League, condemned the acquittal
of the four politicians, who included M Obaidur Rahman, an MP of the
ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
It called a half-day general strike for 3 November.
The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says the judgement for a case that
has gripped the country for decades was delivered amid tight security.
Judge Mohammad Motiur Rahman of the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Court
read out the judgement in a makeshift court compound near the city's
central jail after it had been deferred twice last month.
Those given death sentences were Risaldar Mosleh Uddin, Dafadar
Marafat Ali Shah and Dafadar Abul Hasem Mridha.
All were junior officers in the army who were dismissed from the
They absconded when trial proceedings were ordered in 1996; two
decades after the murders took place in Dhaka's central jail.
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the death sentences handed to
the 11 senior officers for assassinating Rahman, the country's first
president, who was killed with most of his family members in August
The sessions court heard that his four aides were then killed when
they refused to join the then government of President Mushtaque Ahmed.
Ms Zia's government was accused of dragging its feet
Ahmed and a former civil servant were also charged with the killings
but both died before legal proceedings began.
The proceedings were only instigated in 1996 after Rahman's daughter,
Sheikh Hasina, led her Awami League party to power.
The four murdered politicians - Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed,
Mansur Ali and AHM Qamaruzzman - were all members of the Awami League.
Wednesday's verdict had been scheduled for 7 September but was put
back to 21 September because of the illness of the judge.
It was further delayed following a petition by a defence lawyer.
The Awami League said the verdict had been dictated by the ruling BNP
government of Begum Khaleda Zia.
The families of the murdered men say her government has interfered in
the trial process to save some of the accused.
But Law Minister Moudud Ahmed said the court had never been influenced
and the government had no political interest in the case.
The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Slain leaders' families reject verdict
The families of the four national leaders assassinated in Dhaka
Central Jail on November 3, 1975 rejected the verdict yesterday and
called it a farce of a justice.
The verdict was politically motivated and the government's
interference in the case denied them justice, they said.
"We along with the public are totally disappointed at the verdict as
all the main perpetrators have got off scot-free because of the
unprecedented influencing by the government," said Mohammad Nasim, son
of M Mansur Ali. He was talking to reporters at his Dhanmondi
"We were hopeful when the previous Awami League (AL) government
initiated the belated trial. But now justice has receded into a
distant dream following the in***bent government's meddling."
He said the BNP-Jamaat-led coalition replaced four public prosecutors
appointed by the AL government with those loyal to them in a bid to
set them free. "They even replaced the judge," Nasim said, adding, the
verdict has proved that this government is beneficiary of the jail
"Our senior leaders Abdus Samad Azad, Syed Ashraful Islam (son of Syed
Nazrul Islam), Tazuddin Ahmed's daughter (Simin Hossain Rimi) and I
appeared as prosecution witnesses, but most of the perpetrators have
"They should have been punished since they were self-declared killers
of Bangabandhu and four national leaders," he said.
Syed Ashraful said, "Ever since the four-party government came to
power, I was in deep doubt about justice. This verdict has been given
on political considerations."
He held KM Obaidur Rahman, Shah Moazzmen Hossain, Taher Uddin Thakur
as the kingpins of the historic jail killings and expressed dismay
over their acquittal. "Now Obaidur Rahman's hope of being a minister
has much advanced."
Sohel Taj, son of Tajuddin Ahmed, said, "I was only five when my
father was killed and had been waiting for 29 years for justice. But
the judgement has plunged us all into despair."
Bursting into tears, the young lawmaker of the main opposition party
said, "This BNP government made Col Faruk Rahman leader of the
opposition through the voter-less elections of February 15, 1996 and
posted other killers in foreign services. They did so, as they are
perpetrators and beneficiaries of the killings."
Expressing dissatisfaction over the verdict, Khairuzzaman Liton, son
of AHM Quamruzzaman, said they will take the case to the High Court as
justice was not reflected in yesterday's verdict.
The families of the four national leaders have meanwhile said they are
going to hold a joint press conference shortly to express their
dissatisfaction with the verdict.
The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Top lawyers term it politically manoeuvred
Eminent lawyers yesterday termed the judgment in the historic Jail
Killing Case politically manoeuvred and said the judgment virtually
amounts to maintaining the status quo regarding the accused.
Many of the lawyers even reacted sharply to the judgment. It is not at
all acceptable, they observed.
Some, however, viewed it as at least a step forward when the trial had
been stalled for decades by political interventions and judicial
Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court yesterday in the historic
jail killing case sentenced three retired non-commissioned army
officers to death and 12 retired senior military officers to life
imprisonment. The court acquitted five accused of murder of four
national leaders in Dhaka Central Jail.
The three, who were awarded death sentence, are fugitives. Of the
12,who got life sentence, the same punishment they received in the
Bangabandhu Murder Case, three are behind bars while the rest are on
Of the acquitted, four are out on bail now while the other one has
recently been promoted to the rank of additional secretary.
Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday told The Daily Star that the judgment
raises many a question.
"First, I want to go through the text of the judgment in detail
tomorrow (Thursday), and then I will elaborate on my reaction to it,"
Dr M Zahir, another esteemed lawyer, said: "It's a strange coincidence
that the judgment seems to have maintained the status quo regarding
He, however, said he heard that there was no direct evidence linking
Shah Moazzem Hossain and Nurul Islam Manzur to the Jail Killings, and
the judge might acquit them on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
And now, if the state feels, it may appeal against the judgment, he
Referring to the long delay in the trial, Zahir said it was a sheer
indifference to the honour of the departed souls of the four leaders
and painful experience for the family members. Still, at last a step
has been taken forward through yesterday's judgment, he said.
Terming the judgement politically manoeuvred, Advocate Anisul Haque,
former special public prosecutor of the case, said the verdict
contradicts the evidence on record and it can not be acceptable.
"Section 302 of the Bangladesh Penal Code says capital punishment is
the penalty for murder, but I am surprised that nine of the accused
who have been sentenced to death in another criminal case (Bangabandhu
Murder Case), were awarded life term imprisonment here," Anisul told
The Daily Star.
Anisul, who had resigned from the special public prosecutor post under
duress allegedly on the part of the government, wondered how they (the
12 who got life sentence) were sentenced to life instead of death
"Were there any mitigating cir***stances that a person is awarded life
imprisonment when the murder is proved?"
"To put it in a nutshell, the judgment is nothing but a do***ent of
maintaining the status quo regarding the accused," Anisul added.
The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Thursday, October 21, 2004
3 to die, 12 awarded life in Jail Killing Case
Obaid, Shah Moazzem, Nurul Islam, Taheruddin Thakur, Khairuzzaman
By Julfikar Ali Manik and Shamim Ashraf
A Dhaka court yesterday sentenced three to death, awarded life
imprisonment to 12 and acquitted five in the long-awaited verdict of
historic Jail Killing Case.
Ruling BNP lawmaker KM Obaidur Rahman, Shah Moazzem Hossain, Nurul
Islam Manzoor, Taheruddin Thakur and Additional Secretary to foreign
ministry Khairuzzaman, who were freed on bail soon after the ruling
coalition came to power, were relieved of the charges.
All the convicts are former army personnel. Of the total 21
charge-sheeted accused, three are in custody, five on bail, 12 have
been evading arrest, and one died.
While delivering the verdict in a jam-packed courtroom amid beefed up
security, Judge Mohammad Motiur Rahman came down heavily on the
investigation officer (IO), saying all the killers could not be
punished due to the "farcical investigation."
The verdict came about 29 years after the brutal assassination of four
national leaders, who led the government in exile of Bangladesh during
the Liberation War.
The infamous Indemnity Ordinance blocked the investigation and trial
of the killings for about 21 years until the law was scrapped during
1996-2001 Awami League regime. The trial was delayed for repeated
interventions by governments and judicial tangles.
The verdict was deferred twice last month.
Syed Nazrul Islam, acting president of Bangladesh government in exile,
Tajuddin Ahmed, prime minister, M Mansur Ali, finance minister, and
AHM Qamaruzzaman, minister of home affairs, relief and rehabilitation,
were killed inside Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975.
The killing seen as a desperate bid of power usurpers came 79 days
after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most
of his family on August 15, 1975.
Three of the 12 awarded life term in jail -- Lt Col (dismissed) Syed
Farook Rahman, Lt Col (retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan and Maj
(retd) Bazlul Huda -- were sentenced to death in Bangabandhu Murder
Case. They are in Dhaka Central Jail now.
Relatives, friends and supporters of the five acquitted chanted
slogans outside the court building to welcome the judgement while
those of the punished burst into protest and said they would challenge
Shahriar and his family members shouted inside the courtroom in an
instant outburst of protest after pronouncement of the verdict,
terming it an injustice while Faruk said, "It is nothing to do with
law and justice, it's merely a political issue."
The prosecution, however, was silent about the judgement. Public
Prosecutor Abdullah Mahmood Hassan was prompt to blame the IO, Abdul
Kahar Akand, and said the verdict might have been tougher had he (IO)
done his work properly.
The court convicted and ordered to hang Resalder (retd) Muslemuddin,
Dafadar (dismissed) Marfat Ali Shah and Dafadar (dismissed) Abul
Hashem Mridha, all on the run, until death as the charge against them
"was proved beyond doubt."
They were also awarded life imprisonment and fined Tk 10,000 each. In
default, they will have to serve another six-month rigorous
The three can appeal against the verdict in seven days.
Those who were awarded life imprisonment for abetting the murderers
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 Haq 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.
As Farook Rahman, Shahriar Rashid and Bazlul Huda are in jail, their
imprisonment in this case will be counted from the day they have been
serving in jail.
The jail term of 12 absconding convicts will begin from the day of
their arrest or surrender.
Taheruddin, Shah Moazzem, KM Obaid and Manzoor, state ministers of the
government of Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed during the jail killing, and
Khairuzzaman were acquitted as their involvement in the conspiracy of
the assassinations could not be proved. Khairuzzaman, who was an army
major during the assassination, later joined foreign ministry.
Ten of the convicts in this case were earlier awarded death penalty in
the Bangabandhu Murder Case.
Over 2,500 undercover and uniformed members of the police, Armed
Police Battalion (APBn) and paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR)
guarded the court building, high-rises in the court area, Chawkbazar,
Bakshibazar and Chankharpool crossings and roads in and out of Dhaka
Central Jail where the Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court was set up.
The security men allowed the vehicles of only the accused and their
relatives, law enforcers and journalists and let other people go into
the court area after metal detector checks. They also closed all shops
close to the court. An archway metal detector was set up at the main
entrance of the court.
ARRIVAL OF ACCUSED
Whistles filled the area and security personnel lined up from the main
entrance of Dhaka Central Jail to the court entrance as a police
prison-van carrying Farook, Shahriar and Huda came out of jail gate at
They had chats inside the courtroom with their relatives and had
Taheruddin Thakur along with his wife appeared in a CNG-run
three-wheeler at 9:41am, followed by ailing Shah Moazzem in a land
cruiser jeep. Nurul Islam Manzoor came at 10:04am in a black jeep and
Khairuzzaman five minutes later in a white microbus.
Obaidur Rahman did not appear until 10:30am when the verdict was
scheduled to begin. In the meantime the judge had come and the defence
and prosecution sides, journalists, accused and their relatives were
waiting for delivery of the judgement.
Accompanied by his daughter, KM Obaid arrived at 10:38am, 20 minutes
after the judge had sat in his chamber.
As the accused arrived with their relatives, the security men rushed
to escort them to the courtroom.
Former president Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed who is accused of
masterminding the assassinations and former secretary Mahbubul Alam
Chashi were dropped from the charge-sheet, as they died during the
investigation. Charge-sheeted accused Major (retd) Aziz Pasha died
DELIVERY OF VERDICT
Judge Motiur Rahman who took seat in the courtroom at 10:50am read out
the FIR (first information report) prior to beginning the delivery of
At the beginning, he pointed out the faults of the IO in investigating
the case saying, "He (IO) blackened the image of the police
The IO did not investigate many important aspects, failed to prove
many things including the conspiracy behind the assassinations and
presented faulty do***ents, said the judge.
He (IO) violated the Code of Criminal Procedure during deposition of
some witnesses, did not submit the original copy of the FIR and any
map of Bangabhaban where the conspiracy was alleged to have taken
"The IO did not mention the place where Shah Moazzem, KM Obaid and
Manzoor had allegedly been engaged in a conspiracy for the killings
and he also suppressed the information of the three leaders'
participation in the Liberation War," the judge said.
The judge said it could not be proved that Moazzem, KM Obaid, Manzoor
and Taheruddin were involved in the conspiracy (of the
Although Taheruddin made a confessional statement implicating Shah
Moazzem, KM Obaid and Manzoor, there was no corroboration of witnesses
in support of it, the judge observed.
The IO did not made it clear what crime Khairuzzaman had committed by
performing his duty as in-charge of tanks at Bangabhaban during the
jail killing, he said.
"He did not investigate into the activities of the accused at
"Although he was a government officer, the IO was a supporter of a
political party," he said, adding the IO acted on his whims during the
The judge said it was proved that Farook, Rashid and Shahriar, who
were in Bangabhaban during the incident, kept contact with Dhaka
Central Jail over phone and assisted the main killers.
"The jail guards did not try to prevent the killers, rather assisted
them," the judge said, adding the IO did not produce them to trial and
kept them away for a mysterious reason.
Some witnesses did not give any clear statement against any of the
accused, he said. The witness no 11 gave false statement against KM
Obaid, Shah Moazzem and Manzoor.
"The prosecution has failed to prove beyond doubt the conspiracy in
Bangabhaban that had led to the gruesome killings in jail," said the
In the first information report (FIR) filed with Lalbagh Police
Station on November 4, 1975, Kazi Abdul Awal, deputy inspector general
(prisons), accused Captain Moslemuddin and four army officers of the
November 3 killings.
The Indemnity Ordinance blocked the investigation and trial for about
21 years until officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
opened a probe on August 18, 1996 following scrapping of the black law
during the Awami League regime.
Investigation Officer Abdul Kahar Akand, assistant superintendent of
CID, arrested Syed Farook Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid and
Khairuzzaman on September 9, 1996.
The IO also arrested Shah Moazzem, KM Obaid and Manzoor on September
29, 1996. Taheruddin, shown as an arrestee in the case on November 3,
1996, gave a confessional statement.
The court framed charges against KM Obaid and 20 others on October 12,
2000 and began its trial on April 12, 2001.
The trial was complete in 282 workdays with the deposition of the
complainant Kazi Abdul Awal. Sixty four of 75 witnesses gave their
statement in the court.
Six judges who sat the case are Golam Rasul, Sheikh Rezwan Ali, AK
Roy, Ahmed Jamil Mostafa, Molla Mostafa Kamal and Motiur Rahman.
Scheduled to be pronounced on September 7, the verdict was deferred
due to illness of the judge until September 21. But it was deferred
again as the court held hearing of two fresh petitions submitted for
Taheruddin Thakur and granted one that asked for deposition of key
witness and second investigation officer Saifuddin Ahmed eight days
But 84-year-old Saifuddin could not appear in the court on September
29 due to severe illness. A three-member commission formed to check
whether he is fit for deposition submitted its report on October 9,
saying Saifuddin is unfit for deposition. Accepting the report, the
court dropped Saifuddin's name and set a fresh date for judgement.