DHAKA, 21 October 2004 — A Dhaka court yesterday handed down death sentence to three retired non-commissioned army officers and life term to 12 retired senior military officers for their role in the 1975 “Jail Killings” of four people seen as heroes of the independence struggle.
The court acquitted four politicians — former state ministers Taheruddin Thakur, Shah Moazzem Hossain, K.M. Obaidur Rahman MP and Nurul Islam Manju - and a serving Additional Secretary in the Foreign Ministry Major Khairuzzaman.
Risalder Moslemuddin, Dafadar Marfat Ali and Dafader Abul Hashem Mridha were given the death sentence in absence.
Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Matiur Rahman pronounced the judgment at a makeshift court near Dhaka Central Jail.
Lt. Col. (retired) Faruque Rahman, Lt. Col. (retired) Khandoker Abdur Rashid, Lt. Col. (retired) Shariful Huq Dalim, Lt. Col. (retired) S.H.M.B. Noor Chowdhury, Lt. Col. (retired) A.M. Rashed Chowdhury, Lt. Col. (retired) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Maj. (retired) Bazlul Huda, Maj. (retired) Ahmed Sharful Hossain, Maj. (retired) A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Capt. (retired) Abdul Majed, Capt. (retired) Kismat Hashem and Capt. (retired) Nazmul Hossain Ansar were given life term, nine of them in their absence.
They were accused of killing four national heroes - Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, M. Mansur Ali and A.H.M. Qamaruzzaman - inside Dhaka Central Jail on Nov. 3, 1975.
“It is a great irony that those who played such a vital role in the independence of Bangladesh came to be killed by citizens of an independent Bangladesh,” said Judge Matiur Rahman. The country has been riveted by the highly politically sensitive case for nearly three decades.
The four were close associates of Bangladesh’s first President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The killings took place soon after Sheikh Mujib, who had led a bloody struggle for independence from Pakistan in 1971, was assassinated in a coup along with more than 20 members of his family.
Twenty-one politicians and army officers were charged in 1975 with the jail murders but one has since died. Of the 20 defendants still alive, three were in custody for their role in the assassination of Sheikh Mujib and five were on bail. The remaining 12 are believed to have fled the country and were tried in their absence.
The five who were on bail were all acquitted. The verdict was postponed twice last month and all hearings have taken place amid heavy security. No action was taken for many years in the case but it was revived in 1996 when Sheikh Mujib’s daughter Hasina Wajed, leader of the Awami League party, became prime minister.
Opponents have accused her of waging a vendetta against her late father’s political opponents.
The assassination of Sheikh Mujib, who had tried to turn Bangladesh into a one-party state, was followed by 15 years of political instability punctuated by coups and episodes of martial law and military rule.
Although democracy was restored in 1990, politics has been dominated by the rivalry between the leaders of the two main parties.
Prime Minister Khaled Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist party, is the widow of military dictator Gen. Zia Rahman who was assassinated in 1981.