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The curious case of Nuban Ahmed

  • Published at 11:43 pm April 20th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:46 pm April 20th, 2018
The curious case of Nuban Ahmed

What Morshed told Interpol

The charge sheet in the case filed over the 1995 murder of Dhaka University (DU) economics teacher Nuban Ahmed named his colleague Mahbub Morshed as a suspect, stating that the motive could have been jealousy. Nuban was junior to Morshed, but very popular at the department. When the police had asked Nuban about his attackers on December 17, 1995, he replied that an economics lecturer at DU, Mahbub Morshed, knew about the matter. “The attack was a result of jealousy,” he had said. Nuban’s teacher Prof Dr AKS Monwar Uddin, who later became his colleague, also told the police that students and teachers liked Nuban and Morshed could not bear that. The Seattle Police Department’s Detective Abbott O’Harris conducted a 19-page interview of Morshed, who had Nuban’s colleague at Dhaka University, on April 24, 2000 after Bangladesh Police requested assistance from Interpol in August 1999. At the time, Morshed worked at the department of economics at the University of Washington. Morshed said he heard of the attack on Nuban on December 18, 1995, a day after it happened, when a colleague named Iqbal Syed informed him of it over phone. He was at his father-in-law’s house at Shantinagar in Dhaka. He said he had visited Nuban five to six times in eight days. “I tried to talk with Nuban, but he was unconscious at the ICU,” he said. Morshed’s name was mentioned in newspapers as a suspect on December 18. “When I came back to the university after seeing Nuban on December 18, my colleagues met me at the teachers’ lounge and said I should have sent a rejoinder to the newspapers, as I was not involved and they had printed false information.” The police asked: “Nuban has other friends as well. Would you please explain why he mentioned only your name?” Morshed denied the existence of any professional jealousy between himself and Nuban, but hinted at preferential treatment accorded to Nuban by the department, since his father, Dr Sirajul Islam, was a Dhaka University professor too, and the young man had known many of the professors since childhood: “He could choose the courses he would teach where others needed to wait for approval from the seniors.”
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Morshed claimed that Nuban respected him and liked him a lot that is why he had looked for him when he was seriously injured. Morshed used to visit Nuban’s house regularly, and was often invited to dinner. He would sometimes use Nuban’s computer for department work, like printing question papers. Morshed also claimed he was close enough to Nuban to have borrowed Tk15,000 from Nuban for his wedding arrangements in September 1995. He reimbursed Nuban’s mother after her son was killed in December. “Regarding his relationship with his wife...I do not know anything. I was not that close to him,” he said.

Departmental politics: Was Nuban killed for challenging corruption?

The police also investigated claims that Nuban had created enemies among colleagues and students by taking a strong stand against unethical practices. The state defence lawyer Shamsul told the Dhaka Tribune that two of Nuban’s colleagues had been suspended due to corruption within the economics department of DU. Nuban gave statements against them before the probe committee headed by Prof Dr AKS Monwar Uddin. Nuban’s sister Asfia Sabina claimed that when Nuban was a faculty member, allegations of question paper leaks and misappropriation of department’s money were raised against the two teachers. “A teacher named Mahbubul Alam lost his job and another, Harun-or-Rashid, was suspended following a probe,” she said. [caption id="attachment_260339" align="aligncenter" width="960"] A paper cutting of Daily Inqilab from December 1995 where a rally of DU economics department demanding justice for Nuban Ahmed’s murder is pictured[/caption] “Actually some pro-liberation teachers encouraged Nuban to give the deposition. They assured him of backup. But as the teachers had been suspended, they did not support Nuban when he was in trouble,” she added. A teacher of the department, seeking anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that Mahbubul went into forced retirement as allegations of selling question papers were proven against him. He later died due to cardiac arrest. The other accused, Harun-or-Rashid, left his job at Dhaka University and went abroad. “Harun was suspended over [an] allegation of sexual harassment. He was suspended after a probe committee found it [to be] true. But later it was decided that he would join the department,” he said. “The department decided that no female student would be allowed to visit him at his room at the department,” he said. Fifteen students’ exams were also halted after Noman raised an allegation of corruption. One of the students later threatened Nuban and visited his house. Sub-Inspector Jahirul Islam in his deposition said some days before the incident, two youths aged between 25-30 went to Nuban’s house and talked with the house’s gate man Roichuddin, but police could not trace them.

Three’s a crowd: Was Nuban’s death a crime of passion?

Nuban Ahmed married Kazi Sohana Naznin Lipi in May 1993. She was also a student of Dhaka University. In her court statement, Nuban’s sister Simin Sheuri, also a student of Dhaka University’s economics department, said Sohana continued her relationship with Milu even after Nuban’s death. Simin said she had known Sohana before the marriage. The women used to go to the university from Mohammadpur on the same university bus. Milton, too, used to take the same bus. After marriage, Sohana stopped using the university bus, Simin said in her statement given to police in 2001. “After my brother’s death, Milu bhai stayed in touch with my sister-in-law. He was a meritorious student and used to help her with study. They used to meet often,” she said. Simin, a witness in the murder trial, said on the day of the murder, she and her mother were in Panchagarh. When they heard about the attack, they went to the hospital to see Nuban. At the hospital, they found Milu consoling Sohana. “On the evening Nuban was attacked, Nuban, Sohana, and two female servants were at home. The servants later told us that Milu came to the house after Nuban left to repair the camera. He stayed at our house till 10:45pm,” she said. Forty days after her husband’s death, Sohana left Nuban’s family house. “Before the marriage, Sohana did not tell us about her relationship with Milu. After my brother’s death we noticed that they used to hang out till late hours,” she said. In 1997, Milu visited Nuban’s house for the last time to announce that he had no extra-marital relations with Sohana. But they got married the next year. In his deposition before a trial court, Investigation Officer (IO) of the case Nurul Islam said: “Sohana’s boyfriend Milu masterminded the killing to marry her, and she helped him in the murder. Nuban’s colleague Morshed knew all about the plot.” In recent years, however, Nuban’s family has maintained that they did not believe Sohana and Milu had anything to do with the murder. Nuban’s elder sister Asfia Sabina recently told the Dhaka Tribune that she believed that there was a powerful quarter of students and teachers with a shared political ideology who would benefit from Nuban’s death and probably arranged for it, and are using the story of Sohana and Milu’s relationship to divert attention from their own activities. She said Sohana and Milu had an illicit relationship for sure, but they were perhaps not involved: “It is true that Sohana was not a good human being. She even claimed her portion of property within one month of my brother’s death. We were not on good terms with her.”