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Ekram killing: Audio clip raises questions about anti-drug crackdown

  • Published at 12:26 am June 2nd, 2018
  • Last updated at 04:50 pm June 2nd, 2018

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal says they are verifying the audio clips and looking into the allegation that the Awami League leader was killed in cold blood, not in a gunfight

Relatives and neighbours fail to console the two little daughters of Teknaf Municipality councillor Ekramul Haque, who was killed in a so-called gunfight with Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Cox’s Bazar on May 26, as the government launched an anti-narcotics crackdown which many criticize as unlawful and unacceptable.

Eight grader Tahitat Haque and sixth grader Tahian Haque were admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital on Thursday after they fainted while lamenting the death of their beloved father, who used to take them to school every day by his motorbike.  

“What did my father do? Why was he murdered so cruelly? Will he ever be back among us to take us to school?” a grief-stricken Tahiat asked the questions.  

Ashraful Islam, the younger brother of Ekramul, said: “We cannot console Tahiat and Tahian. Their father brought them up with much affection and love. They are insisting on bringing back their father, but I cannot respond to their call.”

Cold-blooded murder?

Six days after Ekramul, also an upazila-level leader of the ruling Awami League, was killed, his wife, Ayesha Begum, held a press conference in Cox’s Bazar, where she claimed that her husband was killed in cold blood, not in a gunfight as the security forces claimed.

“On the night of May 26, an official of a security force took him by force from our home. My daughter and I talked to him over phone after he left us. When we talked to him last, he was panicking. The phone call continued and gunshots and shouts were heard. It was then I realized that my husband was killed in cold blood,” she said.

“We don’t have much wealth, but our family was filled with happiness and joy. But today, we lost everything. My daughters have no one to call Abbu [father]. Their future is bleak.”

She wanted a fair investigation into the killing of her husband and intervention of the prime minister in the matter so on one has to lose her or his dear ones in such “unjust actions.”

Ayesha also gave reporters a total of four audio clips that recorded terrifying conversations between Ekram and his wife and one of the daughters before he died in a hail of bullets.

The audio recorded on a mobile phone also captured sounds of gunfire and groans of a dying man.

As the groaning continued for a while, Ekramul’s wife and two daughters on the other side of the phone screamed and begged for his life, saying he was innocent, according to one of the clips.

Ayesha claimed that the conversations were recorded when Ekramul was brutally shot dead.

However, the Dhaka Tribune could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio clips.

‘Ekramul was an innocent man’

Nurul Bashar, general secretary of the Teknaf upazila chapter of Awami League, said: “I know Ekramul very well as we are associated with the same political party. We have been involved in Awami League for quite a long time.

“A three-time municipality councillor and an honest man, Ekramul always believed in the ideals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It’s unbelievable that he had been involved in drug peddling.”

Investigation underway

Pressed to comment on the audio clips, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Dhaka Tribune that they were looking into the allegations Ekramul’s family raised.

“We are looking into the matter. If anyone is found guilty in the regard, he or she must face punishment. No one is above the law,” he said.

Echoing the minister, Mufti Mahmud, director of the legal and media wing of RAB, said they, too, were investigating the allegations. 

Human rights defender Sultana Kamal demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter.