Mujib killers to seek death verdict review

Dhaka, Nov 20 ( Lawyers for five former Bangladesh Army officers have sought a review of the Supreme court verdict handing them the death sentence for killing the country’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his family members and political associates 34 years ago.

They wrote to the government, utilising a legal provision that allows for appeal within 30 days, soon after a five-judge bench confirmed death sentence awarded by a high court, rejecting their appeal Thursday.

Lawyer Abdullah al-Mamun said the murder deserved punishment, but the trial was not as per law, The Daily Star quoted him as saying Friday.

Mamun contended that the accused should have been tried by a military court, which the government has rejected saying they were either dismissed or retired.

Mamun said: “President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the commander-in-chief. So, their trial should have been held under Army Act.”

A five-judge bench of the appellate division of the Supreme Court heard the case for 29 days and delivered the judgement Thursday.

Political parties demanded that the killers be hanged without any delay and the verdict was welcomed by all of them, media reports said.

These included Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party that had opposed the freedom movement and whose current top leaders stand accused of killing unarmed civilians in 1971.

JeI Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid said: “Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami believes in the rule of law. We are respectful to the verdict of the highest court after a long hearing.”

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said the rule of law had been established.

BNP’s senior leader Maudud Ahmed who had been a lawmaker under Sheikh Mujib before switching political sides, rejected the complicity charge in the 1975 killings that was levelled against another slain president Gen. Ziaur Rahman.

The charge was politically motivated, Maudud Ahmed said while referring to Ziaur Rahman who was deputy army chief during the killings and later went on to become a military strongman and eventually the country’s president (1978-81).

Zia, who founded the BNP, was himself killed in a military coup in May 1981. His widow, Begum Khaleda Zia, who took over the reins, twice became prime minister and is now the leader of the opposition.

Retired general H.M. Ershad, another military strongman and the country’s longest-serving president (1982-90), also welcomed the verdict against the officers, some of whom he had given diplomatic assignments.