“I am a free bird… Now I can fly…”
This is what Khan Mohammad Rois alias Shohan, a condemned fugitive killer of Jahangirnagar University student Zubair Ahmed, wrote in his Facebook status a few months ago.
He is in Malaysia, according to his Facebook profile.
Ishtiaque Mehboob alias Arup, who was given life sentence for the murder, posted an Instagram photo on October 18 last year. He is seen sitting in a chair with a coffee cup on the table. According to the caption, he was at a Starbucks store in Kuala Lumpur.
Although the verdict was pronounced around two years ago, five fugitive convicted killers of Zubair, including the two, are roaming freely, much to the frustration of the family members of the victim.
The other three are Khandaker Ashiqul Islam alias Ashiq, Mahabub Akram and Zahid Hasan.
On this day in 2012, Zubair, an honours final-year student of JU English department, died from his injuries, a day after he was tortured and stabbed by some rival group activists on the campus.
The incident triggered huge uproar in and outside the campus. The university authorities filed a murder case the same day.
Son of Tofael Ahmed of Patuakhali's Khepupara, Zubair belonged to a Chhatra League group opposing the faction allegedly blessed by the then vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Shariff Enamul Kabir.
Following over a year's trial, the Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 on February 8, 2015 awarded capital punishment to Rashidul Islam Raju of philosophy department; Ashiq, Sohan and Zahid of zoology and Akram of government and politics departments.
Six other students of the university were given life term. They are Arup of philosophy, Najmus Sakib Topu of biochemistry and molecular biology, Kamruzzaman Sohag of philosophy, Avinandan Kundu of statistics, Mazharul Islam of history and Shafiul Alam Setu of statistics.
The court in its judgment said the verdict was exemplary, asserting that it was the first time when capital punishment was given to anyone over any murder committed on the campus of a public university.
The court delivered the verdict in presence of Shohag, Mazharul, Setu, Avinandan and Topu. They were sent to jail later.
On February 23, Ashiq, Akram, Arup and Shohan fled the dock after a Dhaka court cancelled their bail and ordered the authorities concerned to send them to jail. They have been absconding since then.
Raju and Zahid did not appear before the court that day. Though Raju surrendered later, Zahid is still on the run.
After the verdict was delivered, the death reference automatically reached the High Court within seven days. The HC authorities are now preparing papers for hearing on the death reference.
With the fugitive killers still roaming freely, Zubair's father Tofael Ahmed, who is in his 60s, is losing all his hopes to see the implementation of the verdict.
“I don't even know how many of the killers are in jail now. At this age, I can't go from door to door to push things,” an emotional Tofael told The Daily Star recently.
He blamed police negligence for the failure to arrest the fugitive killers.
Zubair's elder brother Abdullah Al-Mamun said, “My parents are still in shock. Their health has been deteriorating fast since the murder”.
The family called for the quick execution of the verdict.
KILLERS ACTIVE IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Police official Mir Shahin Shah Parvez, who was the investigation officer of the case, said as far as his knowledge went, the fugitive killers were inside the country and the others in jail.
However, according to their Facebook and Instagram posts, Shohan, Ashiq, Akram and Arup, who had escaped from the Dhaka court, are currently in Malaysia.
Talking to The Daily Star, several of their classmates confirmed that the social media accounts that this correspondent checked belonged to the convicted fugitive killers.
Shohan was working as a manager at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, shows his Facebook ID.
In a Facebook status uploaded in March, last year, he said, “Now I can put my whole life on bet against money making”.
According to Arup's Facebook ID, he is a director at a Kuala Lumpur-based company.
Ashiq was seen making frequent posts on Facebook. Our correspondent in Jhenidah visited Ashiq's village home at Shailakupa in the district. But he found no one there. Locals said Ashiq's family no longer lives in that village.
Ashiq's cousin Liton Hossain said he left the country after Zubair's murder and has not visited Jhenidah ever since.
Our correspondent in Noakhali contacted Akram's father Mahbub Morshed alias Azad recently. Azad claimed that he had no idea about his son's whereabouts.
One of their neighbours said Akram went to Canada and settled there.
However, Akram, Ashiq, Shohan and Arup were spotted together in group photos uploaded from Arup's Facebook account on November 29 and December 2. According to the captions, the photos were taken at two hotels in Kuala Lumpur.
Quoting local sources, our correspondent from Tangail reported that Zahid had fled to India after the murder. He, however, returned to the country later, but his whereabouts are currently unknown.
Apart from the fugitives, some of the other convicts were seen in public recently, said their classmates.
On September 27, Mahmudul Hasan Masud of History department, who was first made accused in the case but was later acquitted by the Dhaka court, uploaded a selfie taken by Setu near the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar, nearly five kilometres off the spot where Zubair was attacked.
In that photo, Setu was seen along with Topu and Mazharul, two of the convicts who were handed down life sentence.
Recently, Setu in his Facebook account mentioned that his current location was Brest, Belarus, saying he moved there for higher studies.
This newspaper could not confirm whether Setu, Topu, Mazharul, Shohag, Avinandan and Raju are currently on bail.
Contacted recently, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star that he was not aware of any of the convicts getting bail.
JU VC Prof Farzana Islam said those who were acquitted in the case took their certificates from the university following due procedures. She said she was not sure about “the current status of the case”.
JU Registrar Abu Bakr Siddique said they wanted all the culprits to be punished.