Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Extraditions of fugitive assassins of Bangladesh founder Mujibur Rahman bleak

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH AUTHORITIES are using diplomatic influence to bring back six people convicted of killing the country's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, nearly 40 years ago.

During a day of national mourning, home affairs minister Shahara Khatoon told journalists Monday that a task force comprised of three government ministries had been able to track the fugitives' whereabouts.

Khatoon said the United States, Canada, India and Libya have been urged to deport the “self-confessed” assassins who are convicted in the murder of Rahman, who was popularly known as "Bangabandhu" – friend of people.

In a military putsch 36 years ago, a dozen of young officers stormed the private residence of Rahman, Bangladesh’s first president, and gunned him down along with his wife, three sons, one of whom was 10 years old, and two daughters-in-law.

The fugitive officers later boasted in a documentary broadcast by a British TV network and interviews in British newspapers why they killed Rahman.

Indian government officials last month assured that they will return the fugitives hiding in the country under false identities.

Extradition has also been sought for Rashed Chowdhury, who now resides in the United States but who has sought political asylum in Canada, while another convicted assassin, former Lt. Col. Nur Chowdhury, moved to Canada after fleeing years ago to Germany.

The Canadian government has opted not to deport Nur Chowdhury, as he faces the death penalty in Bangladesh. Ottawa is reluctant to extradite persons who face execution.

Canadian immigration has thrice rejected refugee claims of Chowdhury, who has lived in Toronto for six years.

Coup leader Col. Khandaker Abdur Rashid is presumed to be living in Libya.

Rahman’s eldest daughter, Sheikh Hasina, in 2009 became the prime minister of Bangladesh. Immediately after assuming power, her government began criminal proceeding against the assassins. Authorities recently hanged five of the convicted officers.

Hasina ignored a plea by rights watchdog Amnesty International that the death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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