The self-proclaimed killer fled Bangladesh after Awami League returned to power in 1996
After spending life as a fugitive for more than 20 years, Abdul Majed, one of the convicts in the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has finally landed in jail.
Forty-five years after he took part in the 1975 assassination of Bangladesh’s founding father, the former Bangladesh Army captain was arrested in the early hours of Tuesday by the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime(CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
According to a document forwarded to the court by the CTTC, he was detained from the capital’s Gabtoli while moving around on a rickshaw. However, after the arrest, police said that he had been picked up from the city’s Mirpur area.
He was produced before the court of the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which sent him to prison.
No lawyer represented Majed in court. He was subsequently taken to Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj.
One of the 12 assassins awarded the death penalty for the 1975 killings, Majed had been hiding in Libya and Pakistan before moving to neighbouring India and residing there for the last few years, according to media reports at various times.
A counter-terror official told the media that Majed crossed over into Bangladesh on March 26 through the border in Mymensingh after the coronavirus pandemic unfolded.
Preparations to execute verdict
Hours after Majed landed in jail, the government said it had begun preparations to carry out the execution of the Bangabandhu murder convict.
“The formalities to execute the verdict against Abdul Majed have begun. The sentence will be executed once those are done with,” Law Minister Anisul Huq said in a video message on Tuesday.
Majed does not pose any danger of spreading Covid-19 in the Keraniganj prison as he had been put in solitary confinement designated for convicts condemned to death, he said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen described Majed’s arrest as “good news amidst the corona crisis” and hoped that the remaining fugitive Bangabandhu killers would be brought back soon to face justice.
"We hope it will be possible to bring back the remaining convicts to face justice in Mujib Year," he said.
No chance to escape execution
According to experts, Majed has no option for a legal battle anymore.
“Majed is a convict and cannot appeal against his death sentence because he was absconding for a long time,” Supreme Court Bar Association President Advocate AM Aminuddin told Dhaka Tribune.
“The only course left for him now is a mercy petition seeking presidential clemency. The prison authorities will be cleared to execute Majed if it’s turned down,” the lawyer said.
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) and other related laws, Majed failed to appeal or file a petition for a review of the verdict against him within the stipulated period.
However, under a legal provision in line with Section 5 of the 1908 Limitation Act, Majed can seek a delay of execution on the ground that he was misled by the High Court order in ascertaining the prescribed period of limitation.
A fugitive for over two decades
According to counter-terror officials, Majed said during initial interrogation that he had been living in neighbouring India for more than 20 years.
The former army officer, who later served in different government positions, including at Bangladesh missions abroad, fled to India after the Awami League assumed office in 1996.
He later travelled to Libya and then Pakistan, before returning to India, where he had been living in different states. But for the last three to four years he had been living in Kolkata and was in touch with his family in Bangladesh.
According to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Majed had been at the Defence Officers’ Housing Society (DOHS) in Dhaka’s Mirpur, where his wife lives, after entering Bangladesh.
The father of four daughters and a son, Majed hails from the southern island district of Bhola.
All of his assets in his native Batamara village in the district’s Borhanuddin Upazila were confiscated after his conviction in the Bangabandhu killing case.
He was among the group of army officers, who were at the Dhanmondi 32 residence of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975 and seized control of Dhaka radio station immediately after the killings.
Majed was also involved in the murder of the four national leaders in Dhaka Central Jail on November 3 the same year, the home minister said on Tuesday.
He then worked at Bangabhaban, before leaving Bangladesh the same year, along with the other army officers involved in the assassination, for Libya.
Majed was then appointed to the Bangladesh embassy in Senegal by military ruler Ziaur Rahman.
In 1980, he left the army and was appointed to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) with the rank and status of a deputy secretary. He was subsequently promoted as secretary and served as the director of Department of Youth Development and Department of National Savings.
Majed went into hiding after the Awami League won the national elections in 1996.
The architect of Bangladesh’s independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed along with most of his family members at his home. His daughters, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, survived as they were abroad at the time.
The investigation into the assassinations was stopped by an Indemnity Ordinance, which saved the self-proclaimed killers from facing justice.
After the Awami League assumed office in 1996, the ordinance was abrogated in November the same year, clearing the way for the killers to be brought to justice.
In 1998, a Dhaka sessions judge’s court found 15 people guilty and awarded the death penalty. In 2001, the High Court acquitted three but upheld the death sentences of 12.
In 2010, the Appellate Division upheld the verdict. The same year, five of the convicts -- Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed -- were hanged.
Another convict Aziz Pasha died as a fugitive in Zimbabwe.
Majed was one of six absconding convicts along with Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, M Rashed Chowdhury, SHMB Noor Chowdhury and Risaldar Moslemuddin, until he was arrested on Tuesday.