Canada, US keep decisions on fugitive Mujib killers pending

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:00, Aug 15,2019 | Updated: 01:18, Aug 15,2019


Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

The government has renewed engagements with Canada and the United States to bring back SHMB Noor Chowdhury and MA Rashed Chowdhury, two of the six fugitives convicted of the murder of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

‘We have been working with the Canadian and the US governments on bringing back Noor and Rashed,’ law minister Anisul Huq told New Age on August 8. ‘We have to wait as separate legal processes involving them are on in these two countries.’   

State minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam said that the government confirmed information about the presence of two of the five living fugitive convicts – Noor in Canada and Rashed in the United States.

‘The government has been trying to bring them back through bilateral mechanism after settling legal necessities in these two countries,’ he told New Age on August 8.

He said that a petition filed by Noor was pending with a Canadian court and the latest hearing was held in March. ‘The court is yet to give its decision.’

The government has appointed law firms in Canada and the United States to deal with the matters as Noor and Rashed sought political asylum there, officials said.

Rashed has been enjoying political asylum in the United States while Noor’s application for asylum was rejected by the Canadian authorities, according to unconfirmed diplomatic sources. 

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina wrote to US president Donald Trump in September 2018 seeking his interventions for extraditing Rashed to Bangladesh. 

It would be possible to get legal remedy for bringing back Rashed from the United States as death sentences are enforced in 34 US states, Anisul said.

Both the ministers declined to disclose details of the move on bringing the two back before getting decisions from the Canadian and the US courts.

The government has started a legal battle with filing a case with Canada Federal Court on June 7, 2018 seeking a ruling for disposing of a pre-removal risk assessment petition submitted by Noor as a protective shield to thwart attempts for his deportation. Canadian federal attorney general’s office submitted their deposition on the petition filed by the Bangladesh government. Noor was also made a party in the petition.

The Canadian authorities were unwilling to deport Noor as it conflicted with a 2001 Canadian Supreme Court ruling that directed the government not to send back people sentenced to death, excepting in the most exceptional circumstances.

The Bangladesh government has described the matter of Noor under the legal purview of the ‘most exceptional circumstances’ as the Canadian authorities had granted shelter to a fugitive convict of assassination of a president of a country.

Bangladesh missed an opportunity to bring back Noor in late 2006 and early 2007 after Canada refused to grant him political asylum.

After the rejection of Noor’s petition for political asylum, Canadian authorities returned his diplomatic passport to Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa and expressed intent to send him back to Dhaka, diplomats said.

There was a scope for bringing him back as his application for political asylum was refused by the Canadian authorities in late 2006 and at that time the death reference against him and other killers was pending with the High Court.

The Bangladesh mission communicated the intent of Canada to then chief adviser’s office and the foreign ministry in Dhaka, they said, but there was no response.

Getting a breathing space of a couple of months, diplomats said, Noor, who has been living in a less populated area in Ontario province, appointed one of the best Canadian immigration lawyers and filed an application with the Office of the Canadian Attorney General in the middle of 2007.

In the application, Noor Chowdhury, a former army officer-turned-diplomat, resorted to ‘pre-removal risk assessment’ provision seeking permission to stay in Canada claiming that he would face death penalty on his return to Bangladesh.

Mujib was assassinated along with all but two of his family on August 15, 1975 at his Dhanmondi house in Dhaka by a group of army personnel. His daughters – Sheikh Hasina, now the prime minister, and Sheikh Rehana – survived the massacre as they were abroad.

The six fugitive convicts are Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haq Dalim, MA Rashed Chowdhury, SHMB Noor Chowdhury, Abdul Mazed and Moslem Uddin.

The government is yet to get any specific whereabouts of four of six condemned fugitive convicts even after about nine years of the execution of five convicts in 2010.

Rashid, Dalim, Mazed and Moslem were constantly changing their locations with using foreign passports, diplomatic sources said adding that Bangladesh embassies were in contact with some countries where the four might take shelter.

The government has been searching for their whereabouts, Shahriar Alam said, adding that there was a proof that one of the killers had used passport of an African country.

Five of the 12 condemned convicts were hanged in 2010 and six had gone in hiding abroad to avoid executions. The prison authorities hanged five of the convicts – Syed Faruk Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Muhiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda and AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed – on January 27, 2010, a year after the Awami League-led alliance government assumed office.

One of the killers, Abdul Aziz Pasha, reportedly died in Zimbabwe and the government collected certificate about his death from the country.

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