A Tangail court on Sunday sentenced a fugitive, Mustafizur Rahman, 23, of Kadirpara in Magura, to death for killing apparel labour leader Aminul Islam of Ashulia in Tangail in 2012.
Tangail Special Tribunal judge Waheduzzaman Shikdar pronounced the verdict six years after the killing of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers’ Federation’s Savar and Ashulia unit committee president Aminul Islam, 40, also senior organiser o the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity.
Mustafizur Rahman went into hiding after the murder.
He used to work at another factory but the federation leaders alleged that he was an informant of an intelligence agency.
Aminul’s widow Hosne Ara Begum Fahima rejected the verdict and said, ‘It was not possible for alone to kill my husband. It was important to identify the perpetrators.’
She also said that it made no sense when the court convicted someone who never appeared before it.
On April 4, 2012, Aminul left his office at Baipail at about 6:30pm and later received a phone call from Mustafizur, requesting his assistance in marrying a woman eloped with Mustafizur.
On April 5, 2012, the police recovered Aminul’s body dumped at roadside, near Tangail-Mymensingh highway, almost 100 kilometres north of Baipail, where he was last seen.
Unable to identify the body, the police photographed and buried it.
The post-mortem report described evidence of severe torture and there was a hole made with a sharp object below his right knee; his toes were smashed; and he died of excessive bleeding.
On April 7, 2012, Aminul wife saw a picture of her husband in a newspaper and went to the Ghatail police station to identify the body.
Aminul’s brother Rafiqul Islam filed a murder case with the Ghatail police station against Mostafizur and an unnamed woman.
Bangladeshi trade unions and industry associations, international business organisations, ambassadors of nine European countries, then US ambassador Dan Mozena, US members of congress, and international unions and labour organizations swiftly condemn the murder of Aminul and called for an independent investigation.
On April 16, 2012, the case was transferred to Tangail Detective Branch for investigation.
On May 15, 2012, a high level investigation committee announced that it failed to identify the perpetrators, terming the death mysterious.
On July 7, 2012, an investigative report carried by New Age Extra quoted multiple sources alleging that Mustafizur was a paid source of National Security Intelligence and the Industrial Police.
After the investigation, police submitted the charge sheet against Mustafizur on November 14, 2013.
Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation president Babul Akter, also a prosecution witness, told New Age on Sunday that they had rejected the charge sheet at the very beginning.
‘From the family and the federation, we, nine prosecution witnesses, had repeatedly requested the tribunal during the trial to order a fresh investigation by Police Bureau of Investigation. We had also submitted applications, but nothing got heard,’ lamented Babul.
Babul said that it was not possible for Mustafiz alone to drag Aminul to Tangail.
‘Which car was used, who drove him to Tangail and how he was killed were not determined…real perpetrators were not identified,’ said Babul.
He said that they would move to the higher court seeking justice.
Special public prosecutor of the case Multan Uddin was also not very happy with the verdict but said, ‘Poor investigation caused the verdict.’
He said that Aminul was called by Mustafizur over phone and Mustafizur was seen with a burka-wearing individual.
‘It was not determined in the investigation, who was in the burka to hide identity and whether the individual was male or female. How was Aminul abducted, tortured and killed was not elaborated….So the judge had to pronounce the verdict based on the weak investigation,’ said Multan.
Mustafizur’s state defence counsel could not be reached after several attempts.
In March 2012, Aminul registered complaints of workers at Shanta Group, an apparel factory supplying Nike, Ralph Lauren and other brands.
On March 9, 2012, Aminul was detained by the Industrial Police in anticipation of an anti-government march planned for March 12, 2012 by opposition parties.
On April 4, 2012, Aminul had had talks with workers at Shanta Group, a garment manufacturer based in the Dhaka Export Processing Zone, to resolve disputes and strikes.
On May 6, 2012, the then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton raised the prospect of diminished international investment in Bangladesh should the country fail to improve the labour rights climate.
Aminul Islam had been a target of harassment by security forces as he was detained and beaten by National Security Intelligence on June 16, 2010.
Along with many other labour leaders and workers, Aminul was facing trial in several cases connected to garment worker demonstrations for a decent wage in July-August 2010, and was charged with a number of ‘criminal offenses’.
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