A Rajshahi court yesterday sentenced three people to death for killing Rajshahi University teacher Prof AKM Shafiul Islam in 2014.
Judge Anup Kumar of Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal awarded death penalty to Abdus Samad Pintu, Ariful Islam Manik, and Mohammad Sabuj at 12:15pm, said public prosecutor Entajul Haque.
In addition to the capital punishment, each convict would have to pay a fine of Tk 10,000, he said.
Among the convicts, Pintu, a Jubo Dal activist, and Manik, former Katakhali municipal unit Jubo Dal organising secretary, were present at the court, while Sabuj was absconding.
Haque said the murder was planned after the Prof Shafiul misbehaved with Pintu’s wife Reshma Khatun, a staff of the university. Pintu threatened the teacher for this before committing the murder, he added.
Announcing the brief judgement, the judge left the courtroom as the two convicts burst into tears. Pintu wailed, “Everyone knows we are not the killers, yet we are punished.”
The court also acquitted eight other accused in the case, as prosecution could not prove the allegations bought against them beyond doubt, the judge said in his verdict said.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the verdict, defence lawyer Golam Mortuza said the convicted persons are innocent as well, as the prosecution side could not prove their involvement beyond doubt.
“The victim was a university teacher; that is why the investigation of his murder case was politically motivated,” he said, adding that none of the 34 witnesses mentioned names of the accused persons being involved in the killing.
On the other hand, Soumin Shahrid, son of the slain professor, said he would not comment on the verdict as it took place in accordance with the investigation. “And the investigation could not establish the motive of the murder logically”.
“The reason for the murder of a university professor cannot be as trivial as misbehaving with a person,” he said.
Soumin said he was a second year student of Dhaka University during the investigation. He could not submit a no-confidence petition on it as the university authority assured him of supervising the case proceedings properly.
“Instead of me, it was the then RU authority who filed the case, and they asked me to concentrate on my studies; they neglected the issue,” he said.
Soumin claimed that Rab interfered in the case, saying, “They misled the investigation.”
The defence lawyer said the prosecution recovered a machete from the place of the occurrence, and an “S” was inscribed on it. Police identified Sadhan Karmaker, a blacksmith from Bogura, who made the machete.
Sadhan told the court that he sells his weapons through Amol Kumar Mohonto, a hardware businessman of the district. Amal told police that he sold this weapon to a tall fair youth, but the police did not present the accused persons before Amal to identify the youth.
“We think police did not do that, because Amal Kumar did not find the buyer of the machete among any of the accused persons,” he said.
However, the public prosecutor said the reactions of the defence lawyers and the professor’s son were “not based on facts”.
Assailants stabbed Prof Shafiul, 48, to death on November 15, 2014 when he was returning home in Rajshahi city's Choddopai area, near the then Rajshahi Rab headquarters and the campus.
Shafiul was known as a progressive teacher and a Lalon song enthusiast.
The then RU registrar filed the murder case the following day, accusing unknown persons.
Hours after the killing, banned Islamist outfit Ansar Al Islam Bangladesh-2 claimed responsibility for the murder on social media, and police arrested three militants over the claim.
Senior police officials then told media that they found militant link behind the murder, and the victim's son Soumin Shahrid suspected the same.
One week later, the investigation of the case took a turn when Rapid Action Battalion held six pro-BNP men and presented them before the media in Dhaka, who confessed that they are involved with the murder.
On November 30, 2015, Inspector Rezaus Sadik of police's Detective Branch submitted the charge sheet, and ruled out any militant outfit's involvement in the murder.
He accused Anwar Hossain Ujjal, a former convener of Rajshahi district unit of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, and ten others for the murder.
Other accused are: Nasrin Akhter Reshma, an assistant section officer of RU; her husband Pintu, Manik, Sirajul Islam Kalu, Mohammad Sabuj, Al Mamun, Mohammad Arif, Mohammad Sagor, Zinnat Ali, and Ibrahim Khalil alias “Tokai Babu”.
According to the charge sheet, Sabuj, Sagor, Arif, Zinnat and Ibrahim hacked Prof Shafiul upon instructions from Ujjal and Manik.
The charges were based solely on the judicial confession of accused Nasrin Akter Reshma, who claimed Prof Shafiul was killed because “he misbehaved with her”, said public prosecutor Entajul.
He said the killers were annoyed at the professor for his love for Lalon as the victim organised functions of Lalon songs at his home twice a week.