by Sirajus Salekin
Two members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have been sentenced to death and three others to life imprisonment for killing Rajshahi University (RU) teacher Prof AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique in 2016.
After examining the evidence, records and testimonies of the witnesses, Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal’s judge Shirin Kabita Akhter delivered the verdict on Tuesday with three of the convicts on the doc.
The death row convicts are JMB members Shariful Islam, a student of RU’s English Department, and Maskawat Hasan of Bogura’sShibganj, who also goes by Abdullah and Sakib.
Both of them were the masterminds behind the gruesome murder, according to Public Prosecutor (PP) Entazul Haque Babu. Shariful, who has been in hiding since the killing, was tried in absentia.
The other three convicts are Rahmat Ullah of Nilphamari’sMianpara, Abdus Sattar and his son Ripon Ali of the city’s Narkelbaria area.
Sattar was out on bail till now while the other convicts are currently behind bars.
In her immediate reaction to the judgement, Prof Rezaul’s daughter RizwanaHasinShotovi said: “We are happy with this verdict although it would have been more satisfying if all the accused were awarded the death penalty. We just hope it will be upheld in the High Court and executed swiftly.”
“But we want to see fugitive Shariful arrested as soon as possible,” she said expressing frustration. “Shariful was the one who planned my father’s murder. But he is still free. This is unacceptable. We wanted to see his trial first.”
The defence counsels have already said they would move the High Court against the verdict.
Prof Rezaul, 58, a teacher at RU’s English Department, was hacked to death only 50 yards away from his home in the city’s Shalbagan area while he was waiting for a university bus in the morning of April 23, 2016.
According to police, he was a victim of targeted killings orchestrated across the country by militants.
Rezaul’s son Sourov Hossain later filed the murder case at Boalia police station.
Police had submitted the charge sheet against eight JMB members November 6, 2016, more than six months after the killing.
Of them, Khairul Islam Badhan, Nazrul Islam alias Bike Hasan and Tareque Hasan alias Nilu alias Osman were killed in reported gunfights with police in Rajshahi and Bogra in different instances.
RU teachers, students satisfied with verdict: Since he was murdered, Prof Rezaul’s family members and colleagues, students and employees of RU have been demanding justice, holding demonstrations from time to time on the university campus.
After the verdict on Tuesday, RU teachers and students mostly expressed satisfaction with it, but all of them raised the same demand – immediate arrest of mastermind behind the murder Shariful and his execution in line with the judgment.
Shariful was a student of Prof Rezaul. Both also hailed from the district’s Bagmaraupazila, a commonality which had allowed Shariful to establish a good relationship with his teacher.
Meanwhile, India’s National Investigation Agency reportedly had found ties between Shariful and an Islamic State militant arrested in West Bengal. That led Rajshahi police to believe that Shariful is currently hiding in India.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police had also announced a Tk2 lakh bounty for Shariful’s arrest, but to no avail.
Agreeing with the verdict, RU’s English Department teacher Prof AFM Maswood Akhter said: “The judge said extremists were behind the murder and they have been punished.”
His colleague Associate Professor Abdullah Al Mamun added: “We had hoped that all the accused would get the capital punishment. But only two did. However, we are happy with the verdict. But we hope Shariful will be arrested soon and his punishment will be carried out.”
Prof Rezaul’s students from the department also expressed happiness regarding the verdict.
However, RakibSohan, who has been coordinating demonstrations demanding justice for their slain teacher, said: “We are somewhat unhappy about the fact that the mastermind of the killing is still on the run. Because his punishment will not be carried out unless he is caught.” “Now we only want swift execution of the verdict.”Courtesy Dhaka Tribune