Among those sentenced to death was Tarek Sayeed, a commander in the RAB who is the son-in-law of a minister in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet. Photograph: (AFP)
Nur Hossain, a member of the ruling Awami League, was found guilty of hiring officials of the Rapid Action Battalion to kill his rival
A Bangladeshi court on Monday sentenced 26 people including a ruling party politician and three senior officials of security forces to death for the murder of seven people in Narayanganj in April 2014.
The court found Nur Hossain, a member of the ruling Awami League, guilty of hiring officials of the Rapid Action Battalion to kill his political rival and four of his aides. A lawyer, who filmed the abduction of the five people, and his driver were also subsequently abducted and killed. Their bodies were later found floating on the Shitalakhya river in Narayanganj.
Rights groups have pointed out the notoriety of Bangladesh’s security forces for state-sponsored killings and enforced disappearances for some years.
One of those found guilty is Tarek Sayeed, a former lieutenant colonel of Bangladesh army and a commander of the Rapid Action Battalion, who is also the son-in-law of a minister of Sheikh Hasina’s government.
Between January 2009 and December 2016 there have been at least 329 disappearances reported, say rights groups. The government denied these incidents.
“There is a dent in those denials. For the first time the claims of that state agencies are involved in wrongful acts has been vindicated by this judgment,” said CR Abrar, president of Bangladesh’s human rights organisation Odhikar.
International rights groups,including Human Rights Watch, criticised Bangladesh for the impunity state security forces enjoyed despite committing extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Names of more senior authorities of security forces surfaced during the investigation of the seven murders in Narayanganj, which eventually did not make into the final list of the accused.
“Our only concern is that the real perpetrators have been identified because initially fingers were pointed at higher authorities. We don’t know to what extent that has been investigated or whether any compromise was made to that regard,” Abrar told WION.
Following the verdict on Monday morning, Shakhawat Hossain Khan, a prosecution lawyer expressed his satisfaction. “We finally got justice,” he told reporters in a packed courtroom.
Security was beefed up ahead of the verdict to thwart any untoward incident. The disappearance of Ilias Ali, a senior politician of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in April 2012, remains unresolved.
The opposition party claims hundreds of its activists have been abducted by plainclothesmen identifying themselves as members of security forces.