The nation is set to observe Jail Killing Day on Wednesday (Nov 3). Although 46 years have elapsed since the brutal killing of the four national leaders inside Dhaka Central Jail, most of the killers are yet to be punished as they remained fugitive.
Ten of the convicts, including three facing capital punishment and seven life imprisonment, are absconding abroad.
Rashed Chowdhury has been living in the USA with political asylum while Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Kismat Hasem and Nazmul Hossain Ansari are reportedly in Canada. Khondakar Abdur Rashid is changing locations to evade arrest and reportedly hiding in Libya.
Rashid was reportedly running a construction business in Libya and Dalim had been living in Pakistan.
The government has been carrying out efforts to bring the killers back and execute the verdict.
On November 3 in 1975, acting President of the Bangladesh government in exile in 1971 Syed Nazrul Islam, its Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad, Finance Minister M Mansur Ali and Home, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister AHM Qamaruzzaman were killed in the jail.
A section of disgruntled army personnel killed the four national leaders inside the central jail just after 79 days of the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
A day after the jail killing, Kazi Abdul Awal, the then deputy inspector general (prisons), filed an FIR with Lalbagh Police Station.
According to the FIR, five army personnel wearing Khaki uniforms and carrying sten guns and SLRs (self-loading rifles) went to erstwhile Dhaka Central Jail around 4:00am on November 3, 1975.
The five, including one who introduced himself as Captain Moslemuddin, attached to Bangabhaban, entered the jail and brutally killed the four national leaders.
ABM Fazlul Karim, the then OC of the police station, was tasked with the investigation and he visited the scene where a magistrate made an inquest report of the bodies. Later, a postmortem report was prepared and the OC collected evidence from the spot.
The infamous Indemnity Ordinance blocked the investigation and the trial for about 21 years until officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) reopened the probe on August 18, 1996, during the Awami League term.
Police submitted a charge sheet in the case on October 15, 1998 against 23 accused, 23 years after the case was filed.
On October 20, 2004, Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge's court sentenced three army personnel -- Moslemuddin, Marfat Ali Shah and Abdul Hashem Mridha -- to death.
The court had also sentenced 12 others to life imprisonment.
Of them, Lt Col (dismissed) Syed Farooq Rahman, Lt Col (retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Maj (retd) Bazlul Huda, Lt Col (retd) AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed (lancer) and Capt Mazed have already been hanged in the Bangabandhu killing case.
On August 28, 2008, the HC upheld the capital punishment of Moslemuddin and confirmed life term to eight military officers. However, the HC acquitted Farooq, Shahriar, Mohiuddin, Bazlul Huda, Marafat and Hashem. The government filed an appeal with the SC in 2009 challenging the HC verdict.
On April 30, 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Risalder (retd) Moslemuddin, Dafadar (dismissed) Marfat Ali Shah and Dafadar (dismissed) Abdul Hashem Mridha.
The SC also upheld life imprisonment of Lt Col (dismissed) Khondaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Haq Dalim, Lt Col (retd) SHMB Noor Chowdhury, Lt Col (retd) AM Rashed Chowdhury, Maj (relieved) Ahmed Shariful Hossain, Capt (retd) Abdul Mazed, Capt (relieved) Kismat Hasem and Capt (relieved) Nazmul Hossain.
The SC exempted Farooq, Shahriar, Mohiuddin and Bazlul Huda from Jail killing charge for being executed in the Bangabandhu killing case.
The Supreme Court in its judgment observed that the assassination of the four national leaders was the result of a criminal conspiracy.
The accused could not have carried out the killings unless very powerful state machinery was involved in the conspiracy, the then Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha observed in the verdict.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Barrister Abdullah Al Mamun, defence lawyer appointed by the Supreme Court for Marfat Ali Shah and Abdul Hashem Mridha, said, “The duo has been fugitive from the very beginning of the trial of the jail killing case.”
Asked as to whether the two convicts contacted him during appeal hearing, the lawyer said neither Marfat nor Hashem nor their relatives made any communications with him.
Former State Minister for Law Advocate Qamrul Islam, also a counsel in the jail killing case, said a taskforce is working to bring back the fugitive killers of Bangabandhu. “Most of the Bangabandhu killers were also convicted in the jail killing case. If these convicts can be brought back, the SC verdict will be executed.”