No headway in catching five fugitive killers of Bangladesh’s independence hero

Bangladesh executed six killers of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 11 years ago but the five other convicts continue to evade the authorities.

Masum Billah Staff
Published : 14 August 2021, 06:18 PM
Updated : 14 August 2021, 06:18 PM

One of the fugitives, Rashed Chowdhury, is currently living in the US, while Noor Chowdhury is in Canada. Despite demands from Bangladesh for their extradition, they have not been sent back.

The locations of Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, and Risaldar Moslemuddin still puzzle the government and law enforcers. Last year the media reported that Moslemuddin was living in India, but the Bangladesh government was unable to confirm those reports.

There is no news of the three fugitives neither are there any updates on the efforts to bring back Rashed and Noor, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.

“America has not given us any new information and Canada does not give us any information at all.”

“The government is adamant about repatriating the two who have been sentenced by the Supreme Court in the country so that their sentences can be carried out,” said Law Minister Anisul Huq.

The government has not “slackened” its efforts at apprehending them, he said, as Bangladesh was preparing to pay tribute to Bangabandhu on his death anniversary.

He was killed along with most of his family members on Aug 15 in 1975 at his home in Dhaka’s Dhannmondi. His daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived as they were abroad at the time. Hasina is the prime minister now.

The investigation into the carnage was stopped through an Indemnity Ordinance, which had saved the self-proclaimed killers from facing justice.

The ordinance was abrogated in November 1996 when the Awami League returned to power, paving the way for bringing the killers to justice.

After a lengthy trial, the court convicted 12 suspects and awarded them the death penalty in 2010.

Out of these self-proclaimed killers, five were hanged on Jan 28, 2010. They were-- Syed Faruque Rahman, Sultan Shahariar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, Mohiuddin Ahmed and AKM Mohiuddin. Another of the killers – Aziz Pasha – died while at large.

Abdul Mazed, a fugitive convict, was arrested in Dhaka’s Gabtoli on Apr 7, 2020. Law enforcers said Mazeed had fled to West Bengal and had only returned to Bangladesh during the COVID pandemic.

Mazed did not have a chance to appeal the death sentence, but asked for a presidential pardon. The petition was rejected and his death sentence was carried out six days after the arrest.

Around that time, Kolkata’s Daily Anandabazar reported that Indian detectives had detained fugitive killer Risaldar Moslemuddin.

The Bangladesh government, shocked by the report, wrote to India’s NCBR on the matter. The government later said the news was ‘incorrect’.

“There was a news report on Moslemuddin, but we investigated it and have not found any proof about its authenticity,” the law minister said.

Last year there were also reports that the US was reviewing the decision to grant Rashed Chowdhury diplomatic asylum.

On Jun 17, 2020 then US attorney general William Barr summoned the Immigration Appeal Board to review the documents of Rashed's political asylum case.

US-based media outlet Politico wrote that the outcome of the review could lead to Rashed losing his asylum and being returned to Bangladesh.

Hasina had also written to then US President Donald Trump, asking for Rashed’s extradition.

But Momen says initiative has not progressed much. “The (US) attorney general’s office is still checking the documents,” he said. “When we inquire about it, they say – ‘the attorney general’s office is independent and they are looking into the matter’.”

“We asked our expatriates to inquire at the attorney general’s office. We told many people – but they haven’t been able to do much good.”

Meanwhile, legal complications, such as Canada’s opposition to the death penalty, are preventing Noor Chowdhury’s extradition.

Momen said he had even raised the matter during a virtual meeting with Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of international development.

The foreign minister reiterated his “strong belief” that Canada would extradite the fugitive in order to uphold the rule of law, the foreign ministry said.

Detectives have yet to pin down the whereabouts of fugitives Rashid and Dalim, according to the latest from police headquarters.

Dalim “may be living” in Pakistan or Libya, while Rashid “is possibly in” Libya or Zimbabwe.

The Bangladesh branch of Interpol, National Central Bureau or NCB, has maintained that it is in contact with other countries to try and find the fugitives. Interpol has put out red notices on all of their names.

There is no verified information on where the three fugitives are hiding, said Mohiul Islam, assistant inspector general of police at NCB.

But the Bangladesh government is working to bring Rashed and Noor to justice, he said.

“We’ve told the respective governments to return the killers to us,” said Momen. “You (US and Canada) speak of good governance, of the rule of law. We also want to establish the rule of law and ensure good governance. That is why you should return the killers to us.”

“We don’t wish to think of your countries as harbourers of killers. It is an embarrassment to you.”

He also called for the support of expatriates and others to extradite the remaining killers.

“I call upon our expatriate brothers and sisters – protest in front of these killers’ houses at least once a month. Tell the people there are murderers living here, so they may be shunned.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher