US to hand over Sheikh Mujib assassin to B'desh, says FM

Updated July 25, 2020

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The US has started the process of sending back Rashed Chowdhury, the fugitive self-proclaimed assassin of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to face justice, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen said.

Bangladesh, on a number of occasions, urged the US to hand over former army officer Chowdhury, who had been granted political asylum there 15 years ago.

Momen told IANS that he had urged US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R. Miller to send Chowdhury back, telling the envoy that the US brings back its convicted fugitives from other countries.

Amid Bangladesh's efforts to get back the fugitive to execute his death sentence, a US media report suggests his US protection could be revoked.

US Attorney General William Barr has set a July 31 deadline for all parties to the response to the petition.

Late last month, the Attorney General quietly reopened the case that spans four decades and two continents, a report on online portal Politico said.

It also said that Chowdhury's legal team maintains that if the US deports him to Bangladesh, he is all but certain to be executed.

"He thought he had asylum. Now, he could face a death sentence - Rashed Chowdhury was a bit player in a years-old coup. His home country wants him back. And now, his fate is in William Barr's hands.

"For almost 15 years, the case was closed. But now, thanks to Barr, it's back. And immigration lawyers say the move sends a chilling message to people who have received asylum in the US. It signals, they argue, that even after years of successful legal battles, any protection could still be revoked out of the blue," said the report, based on exclusive interviews and legal documents reviewed by Politico

Momen emphasised that Bangladesh wants to bring back the fugitive self-proclaimed killer who had been convicted by a court under a free trial.

During his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Momen raised the issue of Chowdhury and sought US support to send the killer back to Bangladesh.

Sheikh Mujib, the first President of Bangladesh, was killed along with 18 of his family members, including his wife, sons and brother, and aides on August 15, 1975 at his Dhaka home. Only two family members survived - Sheikh Hasina, the incumbent Prime Minister, and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, as they were in Germany at that time.

The investigation into the deaths was stopped through an Indemnity Ordinance by the then dictator and acting Army Chief Maj General Ziaur Rahman, and this had saved the self-proclaimed killers from facing justice.

The ordinance was, however, abrogated in November 1996 when Sheikh Hasina's Awami League returned to power, paving the way to bringing the killers to justice.

After a lengthy trial, the court convicted 12 and sentenced them to death in 2010. Five were hanged on January 28, 2010, one died of natural causes and six more are absconding. Rashed Chowdhury is in the the US and S.H.M.B. Noor Chowdhury is living in Canada.

With the yearlong birth centenary of Bangabandhu being celebrating from March 17 this year, the government is pushing the US and Canada to send both of the convicts back.

"We are continuing our efforts to bring them back," Momen told IANS, adding the US had earlier deported Mohiuddin Ahmed, another convicted killer of Bangabandhu, to Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, a joint operation by the intelligence agencies of India and Bangladesh led to the arrest of another fugitive - Capt Abdul Majed (retd). Hiding in India, he was arrested in April and his death sentence was carried in the same month.

Momen said it was the biggest gift for Bangladesh from India in this remarkable year. "We were very lucky that India responded to our application with firm and positive action."

The government wants to bring back the convicted killers of Bangabandhu to implement the court verdict, the minister stressed.

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