The arrest of Shamim Osman is key to cracking the Nazrul murder case, said the victim's family members.
They alleged the Awami League lawmaker knew all along about the plan of the abduction and killing of Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam.
Shamim needs to be extensively quizzed, they said.
Nazrul was among the seven people abducted on the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road on April 27. None of them came back alive.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Nazrul's brother Abdus Salam said, “I believe people now know who masterminded the killing.
“Immediate arrest of Shamim Osman is necessary for solving the case as the phone conversation reveals he might have helped Nur Hossain escape.”
Salam also said they are going to launch a movement to press for the arrest and trial of Shamim.
In the leaked conversation, which reportedly took place on April 29, Nur Hossain, the prime accused and a sworn enemy of Nazrul, sought the lawmaker's help in fleeing the country. With assurance, Shamim said, "It will not be a problem."
Shamim admits to have had the conversation but says it was published partially.
On condition of anonymity, one of the family members said the lawmaker could have made Hossain, over whom he had much influence, patch things up with Nazrul and thus “forestall the murder”.
Despite Nazrul's repeated pleadings, Shamim did nothing. As a result, Nur went ahead with the hit he took out on Nazrul, said the family member.
“Nobody could have thought of touching Nazrul without Shamim's consent.”
Shamim himself claims nothing happens in his area without his knowledge. “I can even tell you if a stray dog has just gone mad in the area,” he said at a press briefing over the leak.
It was Shamim's suggestion following which Nazrul had been living in Dhaka after a death threat issued by Hossain in public in February.
Yet, according to his statement at the briefing, the MP told Nazrul the night before the abduction: “Go to court, take bail.”
Nazrul followed the “advice”. He was last seen leaving the district courthouse premises around 1:30pm on April 27.
Talking to The Daily Star on May 18, Shamim regretted his failure in saving the life of “such an obedient follower”. He had earlier told Nazrul: “I cannot help you in this regard, Nazrul. I cannot save you.”
According to his relatives and political associates, for a number of reasons Nazrul had drawn the wrath of the influential AL leader, much feared as a crime lord in Narayanganj.
Towards the end of last year, he was given the task of overseeing the widening of a road in his ward by Narayanganj Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy. He also attended the last victory day procession organised by the mayor.
Shamim did not like Nazrul's getting close to his arch-rival Ivy, who beat him by a margin of over 1,00,000 votes in the last NCC mayoral polls.
In the polls, Nazrul got elected ward councillor by defeating candidate Iqbal Hossain, another accused in the seven-murder case.
According to local political activists, despite being a BNP cadre Iqbal was backed by Shamim. However, the lawmaker denies it.
Nazrul also joined a programme organised by a civil platform to demand the arrest of Shamim's nephew Azmiri Osman on the allegation of killing schoolboy Tanvir Mohammad Twaki.
Meanwhile, the rivalry between Nazrul and Hossain, enemies since the tenure of military dictator Ershad, intensified over the work of the road.
Nazrul wanted part of a shop removed for a widening of the road, which connects his neighbourhood Mizmiz with Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
Hossain bitterly opposed it as the shop belonged to one of his relatives. Enraged, he issued the death threat on February 2.
Shamim knew about it all.
“He [Nazrul] had informed Shamim Osman about the death threat,” Selina Islam Beauty told The Daily Star.
Immediately after her husband was found dead, floating in the Shitalakkhya, Selina said wailing, “Death won't spare you, Shamim Osman! Don't you think of that?”
Nazrul had also told Shamim that Hossain was trying to have him killed by some members of the Rapid Action Battalion and professional killers, she added.
After the abduction, Shamim told reporters: “I don't believe it can be done by Nur Hossain.”
The lawmaker has this much faith in a man who stands accused in 15 criminal cases and four on corruption charges that placed him on the list of criminals wanted by Interpol in 2007, six years after he had fled the country in 2001.
He reportedly stayed in India till the end of 2008.
Shamim too fled to India and then to Canada after his party's polls debacle in 2001. He returned in December 2006 but left again the day before the 1/11 changeover the next year.
He returned in 2009 and so did Hossain.
“Shamim not only ensured Hossain's safe return in 2009 but also helped him become a councillor in the city corporation election, leaving no scope for locals to think other than that Hossain was Shamim's man,” said an AL leader.
Posters can still be seen in Narayanganj city with a photograph of Hossain, urging people to strengthen the hand of Shamim.
“Bhai [Shamim] became increasingly dependent on Hossain,” said a local Jubo League leader requesting not to be named.
A civil rights activist in Narayanganj said, “You must put together the pieces of the puzzle for getting a clear picture of the seven-murder.”