The High Court has upheld death sentences for 15 convicts, including three sacked RAB officials and a local Awami League leader, in its verdict on the 2014 Narayanganj seven murder case.
A High Court bench of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha and Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam announced the verdict on the death references and appeals on Tuesday in a courtroom crowded with victims’ relatives, lawyers and journalists.
The High Court also commuted death sentences handed down to another 11 people by a trial court to life imprisonment, while the lower court’s decisions for nine other convicts were unchanged in the High Court verdict.
“The killings by these people are an act of cruelty to its highest peak … To maintain the people’s confidence in the court, it is our duty to pronounce the proper sentence,” the High Court bench said before announcing the verdict.
“Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB, was formed to provide people with a sense of security and trust. For illegal activities of a couple of members of the elite force, we cannot hold the whole force liable. Its image cannot be tarnished,” it added.
The court started announcing the verdict, saying: “The death sentences for four key accused – ruling party leader and death designer Nur Hossain, then commanding officer of RAB 11 in Narayanganj Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad and company commanders Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander Masud Rana is upheld.”
It then pronounced the names of other convicts.
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Picture of the victims of Narayanganj seven-murder Focus Bangla
The seven murders
On April 27, 2014, when returning to Dhaka after appearing before a Narayanganj court in a criminal case, Narayanganj City Corporation councilor Nazrul Islam, his three companions Moniruzzaman Swapan, Tajul Islam and Liton and his chauffeur Jahangir Alam were kidnapped by a RAB 11 team.
Lawyer Chandan Sarker and his chauffeur Ibrahim were also picked up by the same team after they had witnessed the abduction of Nazrul and his associates in front of Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium at Fatullah in Narayanganj.
Bodies of all the seven people were found floating in the Shitalakkhya River three days after their abduction. They all were blindfolded with their bellies cut open and bodies tied inside sacks full of bricks.
Reactions of victims’ families
In an immediate reaction following the High Court verdict, Nazrul’s father-in-law Shahidul Islam said they were satisfied with the judgement.
Shahidul was vocal ever since the abduction took place and raised the allegation that the RAB 11 members took Tk6 crore for the abduction and killing.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the verdict set an example of justice.
At a press meet in his office in the afternoon, he said the government side would now decide on the filing of an appeal seeking death penalty for the 11.
Replying to reporters’ queries, he said: “Anyone may get involved in crimes, whether he is a member of a disciplined force or someone holding a vital post. Offenders are personally liable for their crimes, not the institution.
“Nur Hossain and the three RAB officials, members of Maj Arif’s team, who directly took part in the abduction and killings, have been sentenced to death.”
Six RAB members were involved in collecting sacks and bricks used to dump the bodies in the river. Death was upheld for three of them, one got life term, and the remaining two were sentenced to seven years in prison.
Seven members under Lt Commander Masud Rana’s command were given seven years’ imprisonment, while all of Nur Hossain’s associates were given life term.
What the court says
Terming the killings pre-meditated, the High Court said at the primary stage, Nur Hossain, Tareque and Arif were involved. Rana joined them when they were executing the plans.
“The offenders confessed to their crimes. If anyone goes through confessional statements of eight of the convicts, he or she is bound to be shattered in panic,” it said, describing the brutality.
About Nur Hossain’s involvement, the court said: “He fled the country right after the incident though the government brought him back home. This is a strong circumstantial evidence that he was involved in the killings.
“On the day when the incident took place, Arif talked to Nur Hossain over phone and sent him several SMSs. They had frequently communicated with each other before and after the incident, which proves their involvement.”
About the allegation of bribes, the court said that no evidence was found with regard to the claim.
“It is, however, normal that there may be no physical evidence of exchanging money in an illegal act… The whole incident cannot be an unintentional one,” it said.