Bangabandhu's personal secretary AFM Mohitul Islam was there at the Dhanmondi 32 residence on the fateful August 15 night when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family were killed. He was one of the few survivors.
After 1975, he tried repeatedly to file a case for the August 15 killings – but was denied every time. Finally, in 1996, he became the plaintiff of the Bangabandhu killing case which eventually delivered the long-awaited justice in 2010.
Mohitul, a witness to many of the country's historical moments, died yesterday.
Following the execution of several killers of Bangabandhu, Mohitul recollected some of the challenges he faced.
“I tried to file a case once on October 23, 1976. I went to the Lalbagh police station to file a case without the government's permission. After listening to the case description, the duty officer slapped me and said 'you will die and cause our deaths as well'.”
During the hearing of the Bangabandhu killing case, Mohitul told the court: “I believed that the killers would at least spare the kid, [Sheikh] Russel. It is from that belief I told Russel 'No Bhaia, they will not kill you'.”
Mohitul was one of the few eyewitnesses who described the gruesome assassination of Bangabandhu and his family.
Standing as a plaintiff, Mohitul told the court how Maj Faruk asked something to Maj Bajlul Huda – who was positioned at the gate during the murders. Maj Bajlul Huda replied: “All are finished.”
Mohitul described how Bangabandhu and his family stood courageous and served the people until their dying moments. No family member asked for mercy from the murderers carrying out a heinous killing spree.
When Fazilatunnesa Mujib saw Bangabandhu's body on the floor, she told the killers: “You should kill me right here.”
On September 26, 1975, self-declared president Khandaker Mushtaq issued the indemnity ordinance to protect Bangabandhu's killers. After the then BNP government approved the ordinance as a law in 1979, there had not been any talk about Bangabandhu's murder or a trial; but it all changed after 1996.
After many attempts over the years, on October 2, 1996, Mohitul finally filed an FIR with Dhanmondi police station. During years when Bangabandhu’s achievements were being removed from the country, Mohitul was brave enough to try and file a murder case.
Recalling the traumatic experience of August 15, Mohitul had said that all survivors – each one of them injured and in a bloodied state – were forced to stand in a line at Dhanmondi 32 until 10am. Later an army vehicle carried everyone to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Three days later, Mohitul managed to sneak out through the back of the medical ward, only to be captured again.
Mohitul was provided police protection after he filed the Bangabandhu killing case in 1996, but the added security measure was withdrawn after the BNP-led government came to power in 2001.
It meant a return of the sufferings Mohitul had to endure between 1975 and 1996.
The plaintiff had to go into hiding as unknown people regularly came to his home looking for him.
But through it all, Mohitul relived his traumatic memories to let Bangladesh know the truth about the horrible atrocities committed on August 15.
Earlier, Mohitul told this correspondent how he got the job as Bangabandhu’s personal secretary.
“I was a member of Mujib Bahini during the Liberation War.” When he surrendered his weapon to Bangabandhu, Mohitul initially got a job as a branch assistant.
“On one occasion, when I brought a file from the chief secretary’s office to Bangabandhu, he took a liking to me and assigned me as his personal assistant at his Dhanmondi 32 residence. The work was receiving calls on behalf of the president and following protocol.
“The house’s handyman Motin woke me up [on August 15] and told me the president was calling me. After a few moments, Bangabandhu came down himself. I dialled the phone call which turned out to be the last one of Bangabandhu’s life,” Mohitul recalled.
“As soon as Sheikh Kamal came down, several killers entered the house. Within moments, they opened fire and his [Kamal’s] body became still. Their bullets also injured several others including myself and a constable of SB. The killers then pulled us by the hair and forced us to stand in a line.
“When I stood in line, Russel came and grabbed onto me. He asked me ‘Bhaia, they won’t kill me, will they?’ I gave him assurance. I felt the this innocent child would be spared. He was crying to go to his mother. But one of the killers promised to take him to his mother before shooting him,” Mohitul said.
On November 19, 2009, the Appellate Division upheld 12 death sentences issued by High Court and rejected appeals from five death row convicts in the Bangabandhu killing case.
In 2010, five of Bangabandhu’s killers – Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed – were hanged to death for their crimes.