Another August, but this time as we observe National Mourning Day, tinged with the overarching celebration of this year as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary, it would be remiss not to note that 10 years after five of the 12 convicted killers who brought such a blight upon the history of Bangladesh were executed, there have been some fresh developments in the case.
To our knowledge, following the executions of the first five self-confessed perpetrators of the August 15, 1975 massacre, and the death in exile of one more, six more self-confessed killers – Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury, Abdul Mazed and Moslehuddin Khan – remained at large. Of them, earlier this year, in the midst of the pandemic in April, the authorities managed to catch Abdul Mazed while he was visiting his family in Bangladesh apparently, from neighbouring India where he had been in hiding for most of the last 23 years. He was duly executed on April 11. Around the same time, the Indian authorities also handed over Risaldar Moslehuddin Khan. How they managed to hide in India, a friendly state, all this while is anybody’s guess.
The most interesting development though, in recent weeks, centers on the case of Rashed Chowdhury, who has been hiding in America all this time, where he was granted political asylum. In the last week of July however, US-based news site Politico reported that Attorney General William Barr had directed the country’s Board of Immigration Appeals to send Chowdhury’s case to him for review—making clear he would reopen the matter that had been decided more than a decade earlier. It followed years of lobbying by the government to have Chowdhury extradited. “Unfortunately, one of the convicted murderers, Rashed Chowdhury, remains at large in the U.S,” Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin wrote in U.S. News & World Report in 2014. “That injustice must end. It is time for Rashed Chowdhury to come home.”
Under the Trump administration, these efforts would appear to have borne some fruit. Last November, Foreign Minister A.K. Momen said a senior U.S. diplomat—Alice Wells, a career official who has since left government—asked him for documents related to Chowdhury’s trial so the U.S. could review them. Barr’s move in June this year was likely the next waypoint, on the path to justice for Chowdhury, whose lawyers in the U.S. have gone on record to state that they feel it is now a “foregone conclusion” that his asylum will be overturned. It would be the most significant development in the quest for full and final justice in the case of Bangabandhu and most of his family members’ macabre killings on that dark August night, and one more step towards a nation getting closure for the vile acts of a few disgruntled officers.