None of the six fugitive convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could be brought back home in the past six years, though the government insists that it is a top-priority issue.
It could not even trace the location of the four of the six killers despite efforts from diplomatic channels, intelligence and the Interpol.
On November 19, 2009, the Supreme Court upheld a High Court verdict, confirming capital punishment for 12 people, including the six, for killing the Father of the Nation and most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
The six fugitives are Col (dismissed) Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Haque Dalim, Maj (retd) Noor Chowdhury, Maj (retd) Rashed Chowdhury, Capt Abdul Majed and Risaldar Moslehuddin Khan.
Five of the convicts -- Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed -- were hanged on January 27, 2010. The other killer, Aziz Pasha, died in Zimbabwe in 2001.
The government says it is determined to bring the six fugitives back to the country to have them face justice.
“Our diplomatic efforts are on. This is one of our top priority assignments,” State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam has said recently.
Talking to The Daily Star on Friday, Law Minister Anisul Huq said they were working on to get Noor and Rashed back to the country.
Noor is in Canada while Rashed in the USA, he said.
The minister, however, refused to make any comment about the remaining four, who are the self-confessed killers of Bangabandhu.
On August 10, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Moslehuddin was hiding in Germany.
"We have come to know that Bangabandhu's fugitive killer Moslehuddin is now in Germany. But we don't know where he exactly is,” he told state-run news agency BSS.
Officials said the law, home and foreign ministries were working together to identify the countries where the other Bangabandhu killers were staying.
The ministries were also maintaining diplomatic channels with the countries to have them back to the country.
The Bangladesh government has already written letters to “every” country, seeking assistance in this regard. It has also made a global appeal in bilateral, regional and international forums to track down the culprits, said the officials.
Talking to The Daily Star, some top officials said the government also wants to mobilise international support as it has vowed to execute the death sentences at any cost.
Bangladesh wants foreign countries to consider the issue as an “exceptional case” and send back the killers by amending their laws, if necessary, they added.
Of the six fugitive killers, Noor and Rashed have been located to be residing in Toronto, Canada and in Los Angeles of the United States respectively. But due to legal complexities they could not be brought back.
The government has deeply engaged and continued discussion with the US government since the US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat in August 2015 officially informed Dhaka that Rashed was staying in the US after securing political asylum.
Until that time, the US, which had long been assuring Bangladesh to consider the extradition of Rashed, apparently suppressed the information. The US has not yet agreed to extradite Rashed because of “legal complexity.”
A highly-placed government source told The Daily Star that the government has already asked the US government to extradite Rashed, cancelling his political asylum.
Noor is now staying in Canada but without any legal papers.
The country has refused to deport him, as its policies do not approve sending back a person to other country having the provision of death sentence.
Canada, however, did not accept Noor's application for political asylum, said the source.
The Bangladesh government is yet to locate Rashid, Dalim, Majed and Moslehuddin as they change their position time to time. The four have Interpol arrest warrants on them.
The taskforce comprising ministers and high officials of the foreign, law and home ministries, formed in 2010 to locate and bring back the six killers, also has no confirmation about their locations.
It has engaged a nine-member intelligence team to spot the four through surveillance on their family members and relatives in the country. Besides, the government has already confiscated properties of the killers in Bangladesh.
A home ministry report placed before a taskforce meeting on December 9, 2014, said that Rashid could possibly be in Pakistan or Libya; Dalim in Pakistan/Libya/Zimbabwe/Kenya, Mazed in Senegal and Moslehuddin in India.
But New Delhi said it had not been able to locate any of them, and asked for more information.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan claimed that Bangladeshis living in Germany saw Moslehuddin there.
He said they had also learnt that Noor was in Canada and Rashed in the USA but did not say the exact locations of the trio.
However, security and intelligence activities have been strengthened to find out the locations, added the minister.
Earlier, the government had also appointed a foreign law firm to take necessary steps for bringing the fugitive killers back from the USA and Canada but the “top assignment” has not succeeded yet.
In 2011, the government had appointed a Canadian law firm help the government bring back Noor.
Also, the government sent their photos and details to major airports abroad after the Interpol issued the arrest warrants.
Bangladesh made a global appeal to track down the killers at the 78th annual general meeting of Interpol in Singapore in October, 2009.
In August 2010, the then foreign minister Dipu Moni sent formal letters to certain countries, seeking cooperation for deporting the remaining killers as they were believed to be hiding there.
On October 5, 2011, she again wrote to the then Canadian foreign minister John Baird and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with request to handover Noor and Rashed to Bangladesh to face justice.
However, Canada declined to deport Noor, as the Canadian policy does not approve sending back a person where there is the provision of death sentence.
In response, the Bangladesh government argued that the fugitives on their return could appeal to the higher court against the conviction and seek review of the verdict from the Appellate Division. Thereafter, they could also appeal to the president for clemency.
So, it was not correct that they would face punishment soon as they were brought back, said the government.
Akramul Qader, the then Bangladesh ambassador to the US, on March 29, 2012 made a formal request to US congressman Peter King, also chairman of the US House Committee on Homeland Security, to send back Rashed.
Dipu Moni raised the issue of deporting Rashed during her bilateral meetings with Hillary Clinton in Washington DC on October 10, 2011 and again during an official meeting with the US secretary of state in Dhaka on May 5, 2012.
The US government had deported another fugitive in the case, Mohiuddin Ahmed, on June 17, 2007, after a US court rejected his appeal for residency. Mohiuddin was hanged later.
Legal complexities have appeared to be major "roadblocks" in government's efforts to bring back Bangabandhu's fugitive killers keeping its top priority assignment fruitless for years, said officials at the ministries of foreign and home affairs.
The state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam said the government is committed to the nation and respectful of the laws of the land.
In reply to a question about the delay in repatriating the killers, he said, “there are some complexities. That's where our challenge lies. We have taken the challenge and are working on that.”
In this regard, he said, naturally, the countries which oppose death penalty, do not hand over convicted killers.
The Bangabandhu murder trial commenced in Dhaka in 1997, 22 years after some disgruntled army men mowed down him and most of his family members at Dhanmondi in the capital.