Saturday, June 15, 2024

Taher’s hanging cold blooded murder: HC

The execution of independence hero Lieutenant Colonel Abu Taher, Bir Uttam, in 1976 was a clear case of extra-judicial killing, said the High Court in its full verdict released on Monday. Lt Col Taher, a sector commander during the 1971 War of Liberation, was tried for high treason in secret by
a tribunal inside Dhaka Central Jail on July 17, 1976.He was hanged on July 21, 1976. Sixteen others were also convicted of “plotting against the state”. Tahir’s execution came at the climax of a topsy-turvy political scenario amid coups and counter-coups following the assassination of the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with most of his family members.
The then chief martial law administrator, Gen Ziaur Rahman, had decided to execute Taher much before the formation of the so-called tribunal, the HC observed. It also termed the military tribunal’s judgment as “illegal”.
“Taher’s so-called execution was actually a cold-blooded murder by none other than Ziaur Rahman,” a bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain said.
Citing some portions of a book written by BNP leader Moudud Ahmed, the bench said Gen Ziaur Rahman had formed the military tribunal to execute Col Taher in order to satisfy army officers who had returned from Pakistan.
Although several persons involved in the pre-determined killing of Bir Uttam are now dead and beyond the clutches of the penal code, the authorities must track down and indict those who may still be alive, it added.
The bench made the observation in its full verdict to a pronouncement on March 11, 2011, terming Taher’s trial and subsequent hanging as illegal.
“The government is directed to record as an act of murder the illegal execution of Lt Col Taher on July 21, 1976, following the illegal order passed by the said unlawful tribunal,” the verdict said.
“The proclamation of martial law dated August 20, 1975, and all the ensuing proclamations, orders, ordinances, regulations, directions, rules, and all martial law instruments are declared to be void ab-initio and non-est,” it added.
“All so-called martial law tribunals and martial law courts stemming from or created by any martial law instrument, inclusive of the Special Martial Law Tribunal, that operated inside Dhaka Central Jail in July 1976 which purportedly tried and convicted Taher and others are declared to have been barren of lawful authority and hence void and non-est at all times,” it noted.
The HC also observed that the “unlawful orders” of service dismissal for Major Ziauddin, Corporal Shamsul Haque, Habildar Abdul Hai and Md Abdul Mazid cannot be condoned. The HC directed the government to erase the names of Taher, Flight Sergeant Abu Yusuf Khan, Prof Anwar Hussain Hasanul Haque Inu MP, Rabiul Alam, Major Ziauddin, Corporal Shamsul Haque, Habildar Abdul Hai Mazumdar and Md Abdul Mazid from the criminal list that was compiled pursuant to the martial tribunal’s order in 1976.
The verdict said: “The respondents are directed to wipe out the illegal dismissal order passed on Major Ziauddin, Corporal Shamsul Haque, Habildar Abdul Hai and Md Abdul Mazid and treat them to have been in their respective jobs until their normal retirement age from those positions.”
The court also directed the government to pay them all salary arrears, other benefits and pension that they would have received had they not been unlawfully dismissed within 180 days from the receipt of the judgment.
The HC ruling came as another legal measure for the reversal of Bangladesh’s post-August 15 political chronicles with the verdict also making a reference to Mujib’s assassination.
The court came to its crucial conclusions after examining submissions by the state, a judge of the trial court, plaintiffs and witnesses, who included a US journalist.
The journalist, Lawrence Lifschultz, was a correspondent of Far Eastern Economic Review and had reported extensively on the tumultuous political developments in Bangladesh at that time. He had placed written testimonials from his diary and also spoken extempore on that period in the court.
He had implicated Gen Ziaur Rahman, who later became President, for the carnage of August 15, 1975, and the 1976 military trial and execution of Taher.
“Taher’s killing was a tragic episode in our history and human rights violation in South Asia,” the court observed in its verdict, quoting Lifschultz’s submission.
The verdict was delivered on four writ petitions filed by the victims’ families.
Taher’s widow Lutfa Taher, his brother Anwar Hossain, also a Dhaka University professor, and Fatema Yousuf, widow of Flight Sergeant Abu Yusuf Khan, who was sentenced to life term in the martial trial, had filed a writ petition on August 23, 2010, challenging the tribunal’s orders.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Hasanul Haq Inu and vice-president Rabiul Alam, retired Major Ziauddin, Corporals Shamsul Haque, MA Mazid and Havildar Badul Hye, who were also convicted by the tribunal, had also filed similar writ petitions.

-With The Independent input

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