Bangladesh Government has beefed up security for five former army officers convicted of assassinating country’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, as their final appeal before the apex appellate division of the Supreme Court nears verdict.
The five sacked lieutenant Colonels Syed Farook Rahman, Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, AKM Mohiuddin and major Bazlul Huda are lodged in country’s main central prison and the stepping up of the security is being done in the wake of threats that there may be attempts to free them.
Though the apex Court has given no firm date to give its ruling, the verdict is likely to come soon, legal sources said.
The intensified security measures have been put in place after a recent bomb attack on a ruling lawmaker and a key prosecution lawyer Fazle Noor Taposh, whose father a former minister was also killed in a pre-dawn attack on Bangabandhu’s official residence in Dhanmandi area, thirty four years ago.
The Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam, who is also a key figure in the trial, has also received a death threat through an e-mail.
“Ensure maximum security for them,” the state run BSS news agency quoted state minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku as telling prison officials as he visited the block where the five of the condemned ex-army officers are held inside the high security Dhaka Central Jail.
Tuku’s visit to the cells came days after the authorities ordered enhanced security vigil on the Supreme Court premises and the jails across the country with government leaders and security agencies fearing that the ongoing final hearing may be sabotaged.
Four close relatives of the three condemned Bangabandhu murder trial convicts, two of them being fugitives, and two other Freedom Party activists were arrested following the attack on Taposh.
Besides the five former army officers awaiting verdict on their fate, six other men in uniform suspected to be involved in carrying out the assassination are still at large.
These include sacked lieutenant colonels Khondokar Abdur Rashid, SHMB Noor Chowdhury, the man who shot dead Bangabandhu along with Huda, Shariful Haque Dalim, Rashed Chowdhury, former captain MA Majed and ex-army risaldar Moslem Uddin.
The final hearing in the highest verdict began last month. The five had been sentenced to death by the High Court which upheld a trial court ruling.
Under the Bangladesh law if the capital punishment is upheld, it would take less than a month to carry out the verdict, with the convicts having the last option of seeking Presidential clemency.
Bangladesh has launched a major diplomatic initiative to track down the fugitive ex-army officers hiding abroad. They are believed to have fled the country after the 2006 general elections.
One of the wanted man, ex-Lt Col Aziz Pasha died a natural death in Zimbabwe. Two of the convicts AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Bazlul Huda were extradited from Thailand and US.
Police said Interpol issued a second “red warrant” renewing an earlier one to track down the absconding assassins and coup plotters in May 2009.