The High Court today upheld death for 15 convicts while commuting the penalty of 11 others – all of whom were sentenced to death by lower court in the sensational Narayanganj seven-murder cases.
However, the court upheld the jail sentence of the other accused.
Former Awami League man Nur Hossain, the then commanding officer of Rab-11 in Narayanganj Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, the then company commanders of Rab-11 Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander Masud Rana are among the convicts who were awarded the capital punishment.
HC bench of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha and Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam announced the verdict on the death references and appeals in the sensational seven-murder cases.
Read more: All eyes on court
If a lower court sentences an accused to death, the judgment is examined by the HC for confirming the sentence.
On January 16 this year a local court found 35 people, including 25 former Rab officials and Nur Hossain, guilty of the charges. Of them 26 were sentenced to death while nine others were jailed in various terms – from seven to 17 years.
After the lower court verdict, Tareque, Arif and Masud were withdrawn from Rab and forced into retirement from the defence services.
Seven people, including the then Narayanganj city panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker, were abducted from Dhaka-Narayanganj link road on April 27, 2014. Later, their bodies were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river.
The nation stood aghast at the extent of the brutality. The family members and relatives of the victims mobilised public support and waged a movement demanding justice.
Following a petition, the High Court ordered arrest of the three officials and probe without Rab involvement.
After appearing before a Narayanganj court in a criminal case on April 27, 2014, Nazrul along with Moniruzzaman Swapan, Tajul Islam, Liton and his driver Jahangir Alam was returning to Dhaka in a microbus.
As they reached Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium at Fatullah, another microbus waylaid them. The five were abducted.
Chandan and his driver Ibrahim were also abducted and killed apparently because they witnessed the abduction of Nazrul and others.
The murderers cut open the victims' bellies and tied the bodies to sacks full of bricks before throwing them into the river. They were blindfolded, and their hands and legs were tied, police say.
According to a charge sheet, Nur Hossain had previous enmity with Nazrul Islam over issues related to the city corporation. He paid the Rab officials to abduct and kill Nazrul.
Being the commander of the force, Tareque ordered his subordinates to abduct and kill the persons and hide the bodies with the intention of getting financial benefits by breaching the discipline of the force.
Arif and Masud directly took part in the crime, and the other members of the force, whose names were mentioned in the charge sheet, participated in the offence at different stages.
Charge sheets in the two cases were submitted in April 2015.
Following the charge framing on February 8 last year, the court recorded testimonies of 106 witnesses and heard arguments from both the prosecution and the defence before fixing January 16 for delivering the verdict.
Both the cases were tried simultaneously as they were filed over one incident.
The court awarded death penalty to 26 accused as the “charges of abduction, killing and hiding bodies” were proved against them beyond reasonable doubt.