The public hearing on the abduction and killing of seven people in Narayanganj didn't get the desired response from locals yesterday, as a deep sense of insecurity prevails among them with the prime suspects still on the loose.
Only seven people showed up at Narayanganj Circuit House to give deposition on the first day of the hearing arranged by the government committee probing the brutal murders.
The seven-member body, headed by Md Shahjahan Ali Mollah, additional secretary at the Public Administration Ministry, started interviewing people from 10:00am.
Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman feared that the main accused in the seven-murder case may never be punished, as they were given enough time to escape and for evidence to be destroyed.
At yesterday's hearing, six people deposed before the probe body but the others didn't.
They said locals didn't dare to give deposition fearing reprisal, as the six accused, including Narayanganj ward councillor Nur Hossain, in the murder case and their accomplices are absconding.
"People have stayed away because of fear. The media is here, and people fear they will be in trouble if Nur Hossain comes back," said Abdus Salam, brother of slain Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam.
Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, lawyer at Narayanganj Judge Court, echoed his view.
Ismail said people were in fear, and that was why they didn't come to give their depositions.
The committee should hold the hearing at a place where people would feel comfortable to speak, he said.
Shahin Azad, one of the six who gave deposition yesterday, alleged that Siddhirganj Awami League leader Nur Hossain was behind the abduction and killing of the seven.
Hossain, who is loyal to local AL lawmaker Shamim Osman, might have taken the help of some Rab officials, he said.
"Everything will be clear if the three Rab officials are arrested. The motive behind the murders will also be known. I said this to the probe committee," Shahin, a contractor in Siddhirganj area, told reporters after giving his deposition to the probe body.
Asked how he was so sure about that, Shahin said he was a local resident and a voter as well. "That is why I know."
Replying to a question, he said Hossain regards Shamim as his leader and treats him like his brother.
Shahin said he saw them share a stage in Narayanganj 15 days before the abduction.
Nobody can commit such a heinous crime without their tacit support, he added.
Advocate Abu Hasnat Abdullah Russel, who also gave disposition, said Hossain had very good relations with the local police administration.
"Nur Hossain gave money to Rab to kill advocate Chandan," he alleged.
Nazrul's brother Salam said he requested the probe committee to hold a public hearing at Siddhirganj, as all the victims lived there.
"People will come to give details of Nur Hossain's misdeeds if the hearing is held there," he said.
Before the hearing, Sakhawat Hossain, president of Narayanganj Ainjibi Samity, met the investigators and alerted them that followers of the accused might approach them in the guise of common people.
The probe body chief didn't talk to reporters yesterday.
However, Mizanur Rahman Khan, a member of the committee, said those who gave deposition placed some demands. "We'll consider those," he said.
The committee will hold another hearing on May 15.
On April 27, Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam and his four aides and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker and his driver were kidnapped from the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road around the same time in broad daylight.
Six bodies, including that of Nazrul and Chandan, were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river on April 30, and another was found the following day. The other victims are Swapan, Tajul Islam, Liton, Jahangir and Ibrahim.
Later, Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam alleged that Rab men had killed Nazrul in exchange for Tk 6 crore.
Police were yet to arrest the three Rab officials, forced to retire over their alleged involvement in the abduction and killing, even a day after the High Court ordered the government to arrest the trio immediately.
State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan told BBC Bangla yesterday that the trio had been kept under surveillance, and the legal process to arrest them was underway.
The three -- Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander SM Masud Rana -- were withdrawn from Rab-11 on April 29, two days after the seven people were abducted in Narayanganj.
Tareque was the commanding officer of Rab-11 when the abductions and killings took place. He is the son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.
Talking to reporters at a programme yesterday, the NHRC chief said, "Law enforcers conducted their first drive a week after the incident. Seven days are enough for one to travel from one end of the world to another."
It's possible to destroy all evidence within several hours, and a week is more than enough to do that. "Why were they [the criminals] given such a long recess?" he questioned.
Those who allowed the criminals the leeway to go away quietly should be identified and brought to book immediately, he said at a training programme for Journalists on Human Rights Issue in the capital.
In the meantime, lawyers at Narayanganj court abstained from work for an hour and brought out a procession on the court premises demanding exemplary punishment to the culprits.
Law enforcers yesterday arrested two of Hossain's accomplices -- Russel and Rafiqul Islam -- from the capital's Shanir Akhra, and Siddhirganj in Narayanganj.
Both are involved in the narcotics trade, police said.
[Our Narayanganj Correspondent contributed to this report.]