‘Breakthrough’ in bringing back Bangabandhu murder convicts

Raheed Ejaz | Update:

Dhaka has made certain breakthroughs in the process of bringing back death-row convicts of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman murder case, law minister Anisul Huq has indicated.

Diplomats in Washington said on Monday that the United States government has ‘some interest’ in extraditing AM Rashed Chowdhury, one of such convicts who is now living there under political asylum.

The government of Bangladesh has started the communication process to bring back two more convicts after being certain that Shariful Haque Dalim is staying in Spain and Moslem Uddin in Germany.

However, Canada, a country which opposes death penalty, refuses to hand over another convict in the Bangabandhu murder case - Noor Chowdhury.

Dhaka does not know where two others - Khandaker Abdur Rashid and Abdul Mazed - are currently living, foreign ministry officials admit.

The law minister told Prothom Alo earlier on 2 August that, "Death penalty has not been abolished in the US. So, the US has no point why AM Rashed Chowdhury shall not be extradited... What I can say is that there has been certain breakthroughs in the process.”

On extradition of Noor Chowdhury from Canada, Anisul Huq, a lawyer by profession, said that they have continued discussions with Canada.

Anisul Huq is the head of the taskforce the government earlier formed to bring back the convicts of the murder case of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was killed on 15 August 1975 in a coup d’etat.

Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, during his visit to US in February of 2015, requested Washington to extradite Rashed Chowdhury. Three months later, a US legal consultancy firm named Skadden LLP was hired to expedite the process of extradition of Rashed Chowdhury.

Former president Barack Obama's law consultant Gregory Craig, now representing the firm, is monitoring the case. He and his colleagues had held a series of meetings with the officials of US departments including the state department and the homeland security. The matter was brought to the attention of the then US attorney general Stuart Bruce.

Following foreign minister Mahmood Ali’s request to the US law office last year for extraditing Rashed Chowdhury, Skadden LLP informed Dhaka that the US is positive about extraditing Rashed Chowdhury.

In June 2007, the US government sent back another convict in the case KM Mohiuddin, who failed to get political asylum, and who had already been executed.

When asked about progress in bringing back Moslem Uddin, Bangladesh ambassador to Berlin Imtiaz Ahmed declined to make any comment.

Also, Bangladesh ambassador to Madrid, Hasan Mahmud Khandaker did not make any comment on Dalim’s stay in Spain.

Both Germany and Spain have already abolished the death penalty as punitive measure for serious offence.

Foreign ministry officials in Dhaka said  Canada has not yet completed the pre-risk removal assessment of possible extradition of Noor Chowdhury although the Canadian high court rejected his appeal for political asylum.

A three-member Bangladesh delegation held discussion with Canadian authorities in April about forming a taskforce for bringing him back. The two sides may hold talks again in December.

Abdur Rashid, a key convict, is believed to have been staying in Islamabad. Dhaka has sought information from Islamabad about his stay in Pakistan. No reply came in this regard till date.

The government is yet to trace the whereabouts of Abdul Mazed.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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