August 15 Massacre

Justice still elusive in 3 cases

Md Solamain Salman

15 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Justice remains elusive in three cases filed over the killing of 24 people including the then water resources minister Abdur Rab Serniabat and founding chairman of Awami Juba League Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni on August 15, 1975, on the night when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was murdered along with his family members.

Forty-five years have elapsed since the murders but the victims and their family members are yet to get justice in the cases due to inaction and negligence of officials concerned of the government.

When asked about the cases, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam also expressed his frustration over the cases, saying that no officials of his office inform him about the cases.

The chief state counsel told daily sun that “The cases are very sensitive and a national issue, so they should be complete to ensure justice for the victims.”

Mahbubey Alam further said, “They will take initiatives in the casesthough most of the accused in these cases have either been convicted or executed in the Bangabandhu killing case.”

According to the cases, on August 15, 1975, a group of disgruntled army officials killed the then President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of Bangladesh’s independence, along with most members of his family.

On the fatal night, the assailants also killed Bangabandhu’s brother-in-law and the then water resources minister Abdur Rab Serniabat at his Minto Road residence in the capital.

On that night, Bangabandhu’s nephew and founding chairman of Awami Jubo League Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and his wife Arzu Moni were also killed by the assailants at their Dhanmondi residence.

Meanwhile, a group of army personnel carried out mortar attack targeting Bangabandhu’s Dhanmondi residence but the mortar hit establishments at Mohammadpur area instead of the residence on the night of August 15, 1975 that killed 14 more people.

Although the nation got justice for the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members, the trial of the three cases filed over the killings of 24 others, including Serniabat and Sheikh Moni, is yet to be completed.

Of the three cases filed in 1996, two of them are still pending with the courts while all the accused in the Sheikh Moni and his wife Arzu Moni murder case were acquitted by a lower court following a final report of police during the BNP-led government tenure in 2002.

Serniabat Murder Case

According to the charge sheet, in the early hours of August 15, a group of army personnel led by Maj Shahriar Rashid, Maj Aziz Pasha, Capt Majed and Capt Nurul Huda stormed Serniabat’s residence on 27 Minto Road, gathered the residents in a room and shot them.

Eight people--Serniabat, his daughter Baby Serniabat, son Arif Serniabat, four-year-old grandson Babu Serniabat, nephew Shaheed Serniabat, domestic helps Potka and Laxmir Ma, and Abdur Naim Khan, alias Rintu--died on the spot in the attack.

Nine others were severely injured. However, Abul Hasnat Abdullah, son of Serniabat, survived hiding behind a door. Hasnat’s wife Shahan Ara Begum, who was one of the injured, filed a case with Ramna Police Station accusing 18 people on October 21, 1996.

On July 30 in 1997, police submitted a charge sheet against the 17 accused while the trial started at Dhaka First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court on October 4, 1999.

Later, the High Court stayed the proceedings of the case following a petition filed by Bazlul Huda, one of the accused executed for Bangabandhu’s murder.

Mortar attack at Mohammadpur

On November 29, 1996, Mohammad Ali, a resident of Mohammadpur area, filed a case with Mohammadpur Police Station accusing Syed Farooq Rahman and 10 others on charges of killing 14 people by mortar shells fired by a group of military personnel in Mohammadpur area in the early hours of August 15, 1975.

Plaintiff Mohammad Ali, who was also injured in the attack mentioned in his case statement that he went to House-196 and 197 on Shahjahan Road in Mohammadpur where he saw bodies of Habibur Rahman, Anwara Begum, another lady by the same name, Moyful Bibi, Sabera Begum, Abdullah, Rafiqul, Safia Khatun, Shahabuddin, Kasheda, Aminuddin and Honufa Bibi, all killed in mortar shells fire.

The CID submitted charges against 17 accused in July 1997 for the incident.

The trial started on November 1, 2006 but it remains pending with the Dhaka Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court due to non-appearance of the witnesses and alleged negligence of the concerned officials.

Only 18 prosecution witnesses, out of 58, have so far testified in the last 14 years in the case.

Prosecution lawyers have failed to produce any witness before the court since CID official Munshi Atiq had testified as 18th witness on January 22, 2019. The next hearing date of the case is September 21, this year.

Expressing frustration over the slow pace of the case, plaintiff Mohammad Ali, also a freedom fighter told daily sun that “I want justice in the case.”

Talking to the correspondent, Public Prosecutor Mahafujur Rahman Khan said, “The case is still pending due to non-appearance of witnesses. But we hoped that the trial will be completed by March of next year.”

Sheikh Moni Murder case

According to the case, a group of 25 to 30 army men surrounded Sheikh Moni’s house-170 on Road 13/1 in Dhanmondi around 1:30am on August 15, 1975. Carrying Sten gun and Chinese rifle, eight to ten of them in black uniform went up to the first floor and got down after firing shots.

Moni’s close aide Mohammad Shahabuddin, who was on the ground floor, went upstairs and saw Moni and his wife Arzu lying on the floor in a critical condition. Moni’s parents, younger sister Sheikh Rekha and brother Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim were crying.

Sheikh Maruf, younger brother of Moni, turned up there. Arzu cried to Selim for help and asked him to save them and their two sons---Sheikh Fazle Shams Porosh and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh.

Shahabuddin, Selim and Maruf took Sheikh Moni and Arzu to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared them dead.

Shahabuddin filed a case with Dhanmondi Police Station on November 20, 1996 accusing 16 people, including former deputy minister Taheruddin Thakur, in the case.

But CID gave a final report clearing all the accused in the case on August 22, 2002 during the BNP led government. Later, a Dhaka Court on December 30, 2002 acquitted all the accused without notifying the complainant of the case.

Neither the investigation officer nor the court concerned informed the plaintiff about the investigation. Later, no initiative was taken for further investigation over the case.

The government can revive this case and ensure justice for the victims by conducting a further investigation, if they want, said legal experts.