Bangladesh scraps gallantry awards of four fugitive 1975 coup leaders

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Dhaka, Jun 6 (PTI) Bangladesh on Sunday scrapped the gallantry awards of four convicted ex-military officers who are on the run, evading death sentences for assassinating the country's founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975.

'The (gallantry) awards of these four self-confessed killers of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others have been scrapped,' read an official notification.

The four sacked officers -- lieutenant colonel Shariiful Haque Dalim, lieutenant colonel, SHMB Noor Chowdhury, lieutenant AM Rashed Chowdhury and Nayek Subedar (JCO) Moslem Uddin Khan -- are believed to be hiding abroad.

They were awarded with different gallantry awards for their role in Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan but they went rogue in 1975, plotting a military coup which ousted Bangabandhu's post-independence Awami League government.

The Bangladesh founder's eldest daughter and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and younger daughter Sheikh Rehana survived the putsch as they were on a visit to West Germany at that time.

Twelve sacked military officers were sentenced to death in Bangabandhu's murder trial and five of them have been executed by now, while one died of natural cause during a fugitive stay abroad.

Despite their trial and conviction in absentia more than a decade ago, the names of these four ex-officers remained in 1971 Gallantry Award Recipients' List, which recently drew the government's attention.

The notification came days after Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said steps were underway to strip them off the awards.

Five of the convicted killers still remained beyond justice while the government could confirm that one of them was living in the United States and another in Canada. Officials said diplomatic and legal efforts were underway to get their physical custody.

Sheikh Mujib, fondly called 'Bangabandhu' or 'friend of Bengal' was killed in a predawn raid at his private 32, Dhanmandi house along with his wife, three sons including a 10-year old boy, two daughters' in law and several of the presidential aides including his military secretary.

The band of coup leaders simultaneously raided the houses of two of Bangabandhu's relatives, who were also leaders of the then ruling Awami League, and killed them along with several of their family members including children and pregnant women.

The post-August 15 military and pseudo military regimes protected the killers under an indemnity law and rewarded several of them with prestigious diplomatic assignments abroad or allowed them to float political parties at home.

The returning to power in a landmark 1996 general elections after 21 years in political wilderness, Awami League scrapped the indemnity law and initiated a process of the delayed trial of the perpetrators of the killings in 1975.

Six convicts were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail after a protracted legal procedure.

Two of them were brought back home from Thailand and the United States where they hid to escape the death sentence.

The last of the six to walk to gallows was ex-military captain MA Majed on April 12, 2020, days after he was forced to return home from India, where he managed to take a secret refuge hiding his identity since 1996.

Dhaka's District and Sessions Judge's Court issued the original judgment in 1998 which was endorsed later by the High Court and eventually by apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. PTI AR IND

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