Of the six absconders, according to officials concerned, the government knows the whereabouts of two fugitives for certain: Rashed Chowdhury in the United States, and Noor Chowdhury in Canada. But the whereabouts of Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Abdul Mazed, and Moslehuddin Khan are yet to be determined
More than a decade has passed since the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court paved the way to execute the order of the lower court to hang the 12 killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but the government failed to bring back six absconding murderers from abroad.
So far the government’s efforts in this regard appear to have been confined to the rhetoric of ministers and ruling Awami League leaders without any visible progress.
Following a lengthy legal process, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, on November 19, 2009, upheld the death penalty for 12 convicted ex-army officers, for the assassination of Bangabandhu and his family on August 15, 1975.
Five of the convicts — Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed — were hanged on January 27, 2010. Another convict, Aziz Pasha, met a natural death in Zimbabwe in 2001.
Of the six absconders, according to officials concerned, the government knows the whereabouts of two fugitives for certain: Rashed Chowdhury in the United States, and Noor Chowdhury in Canada. But the whereabouts of Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Abdul Mazed, and Moslehuddin Khan are yet to be determined.
Let alone bringing them back, the government is yet to trace the whereabouts of the killers, apart from two of them, said officials of the different ministries concerned in speaking to Dhaka Tribune.
Some ministers and Awami League leaders always say that the issue of bringing back Bangabandhu’s killers is a top priority and say that they are making every effort possible to bring them back. From time to time, the ministers and ruling party leaders say that “progress has been made to bring the killers back.”
For instance, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, on August 4, expressed optimism that at least one or two killers of Bangabandhu could be brought back prior to the celebrations of the birth centenary of the country’s founding leader.
However, he did not say who those convicted persons are that could be brought back.
*Taskforce on bringing back killers has not met for a long time
*AL-led govt claims it is a top priority
*As of now, prospects seem bleak, say officials
*Obstacle really high, admits Law Minister Anisul Huq
Ahead of the National Mourning Day last year, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam, said there has been “significant progress” in bringing the convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman back to Bangladesh.
“But we cannot speak more for the sake of the work,” he said.
On August 13, 2017, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said almost all the absconding killers of Bangabandhu had been traced and efforts were on to bring them back to face justice.
Government officials however, disagreed with political leaders, saying that they could not yet determine the whereabouts of all the absconding killers.
Law Minister Anisul Huq seems to agree with the officials.
"Look, we are trying our best to bring the fugitive killers back home to face justice. But the obstacle is really high,” he told this correspondent on August 12.
"It's not an easy task," he added.
Contrary to the remarks of the Home Minister and State Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Law Minister said: “We are making efforts to trace the four remaining fugitives.”
About the repatriation of Rashed and Noor from the US and Canada respectively, he cited the domestic laws of those countries as hurdles to bringing them back.
“We are trying to overcome these legal hurdles by appointing law firms in both the countries,” he added.
“If the whereabouts of all the absconders are known as stated by the home minister and the state minister for foreign affairs, it is certainly a very positive development. But we do not know anything about all but two,” said a top government official.
Even if the whereabouts are known, he said it is not going to be easy to bring them back due to different practical reasons.
Another top official concurred with his colleague and said: “We are in a kind of helpless situation in bringing the killers back.”
About the foreign minister’s hope of bringing back at least one or two killers before Bangabandhu’s birth centenary celebrations next year, a senior Foreign Ministry official said: “I wish I could be as optimistic as the minister. To me, the prospect seems bleak as we speak."
It is not that the ministers are not cordial, the officials said, adding that there are many things that are out of the government’s control.
They mentioned some hurdles like the domestic laws of the countries of residence of the killers, and Bangladesh’s lack of ability in terms of gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of the other fugitives.
The officials also mentioned the existence of a three-member high-profile taskforce to bring back Bangabandhu killers, headed by the law minister, but the body has not met for a long time.
Law Minister Anisul Huq acknowledged that the taskforce has not met for quite a while and said that it will meet soon.
The foreign minister and home minister are two members of the taskforce.
“Yes, the taskforce, headed by me, did not sit for a while. But, we will sit soon,” said Anisul Huq.
Canadian law does not allow sending back any foreign national who faces the death penalty in his or her country, officials said, adding that the issue of repatriating Rashed is complex as the matter is under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Justice.