Shah Jamal grew up on the bank of the Shitalakkhya. In his life of 70 years, he has seen an awful lot happening along the river, in Narayanganj.
But what he saw on April 30, 2014, was something he would not forget till the day he dies -- bodies floating on the patches of water hyacinth in the river, swollen and giving off a terrible stench.
The memory of that summer morning left a deep scar on his psyche.
"I saw a dead body floating on this side of the river, tied to a sack full of bricks with its belly cut open. The scene was horrible; I would never forget," said Jamal, a ragpicker, pointing at the edge of the river at Shantinagar point of Bandar upazila of Narayanganj on August 8.
There were five more bodies a little away. All were in similar conditions, said Jamal, a resident of Shantinagar, talking to these correspondents.
Another body was found the following day.
The nation watched in horror as the seven bodies were pulled out of the river, and stories on a mindless savagery flooded the media.
The victims include Narayanganj City Corporation panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker. Before being murdered, they were abducted from Dhaka-Narayanganj link road on April 27, 2014.
Today the High Court will deliver its verdict on the death reference and appeals in cases over the seven-murder as the family members of the victims wait impatiently to see the perpetrators get due punishment for the crime.
"We would never get back what we have lost. All we want now is justice. We want to see criminals punished on this very land," said Abul Khayer, father of Tajul Islam Russel, one of the victims.
Taking out a passport-size photograph of 27-year-old Tajul from his wallet, he said, "It is very difficult to accept that a young son left home before your eyes and never returned.
“Deaths from natural causes can be accepted. But the sheer savagery inflicted by the murderers upon my son and others by killing and dumping their bodies is in no way bearable," he told this newspaper at his office in Mouchak of Siddhirganj.
The loss of the eldest among three sons made the mother, Taslima Khatun, mentally instable.
"She is like a dead person now. Sometimes she behaves normally but most of the time she is abnormal," said Abul Khayer.
The incident not only left the seven families shattered but also earned a bad name for a disciplined force -- Rapid Action Battalion -- because of the involvement of its members in such a grievous offence.
Three Rab men -- the then commanding officer of Rab-11 in Narayanganj Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad and the then company commanders of Rab-11 Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander Masud Rana -- were withdrawn from Rab on April 29, 2014 for their alleged involvement in the abduction.
A day after the abduction of the seven, Nazrul's wife Selina Islam filed an abduction case against six people, including the then NCC councillor Nur Hossain.
Another case was filed by Chandan's son-in-law Bijoy Kumar Paul over the abduction and the killing.
The family members and relatives of the victims mobilised public support and waged a movement demanding justice.
HOW THE INCIDENT UNFOLDED
After appearing before a Narayanganj court in a criminal case on April 27, 2014, Nazrul along with his three co-accused Moniruzzaman Swapan, Tajul Islam and Liton and Swapan's driver Jahangir Alam was returning to Dhaka on a microbus.
As they reached Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium at Fatullah, another microbus waylaid them. The five were abducted.
Lawyer 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.
Six bodies were found afloat on the Shitalakkhya on April 30 and the other the following day.
Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam alleged that Nur had given some Rab men Tk 6 crore to kill Nazrul with whom he had a longstanding political feud.
Lt Col Tareque, son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, and Maj Arif and Lt Commander Masud were forced into retirement on May 6, 2014.
Following a High Court order of May 11, law enforcers arrested Tareque and Arif on May 17 and Masud the next day.
Nur fled immediately after the murders. He was detained in Kolkata on June 14 for trespassing and possessing an illegal firearm. He was brought back to the country in November next year.
According to a charge sheet, Nur Hossain had enmity with Nazrul Islam over issues related to the city corporation. He paid the Rab officials to abduct and kill Nazrul.
Being the chief of Rab-11, Tareque ordered his subordinates to abduct and kill the persons and hide the bodies for financial benefits.
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 its verdict.
Both the cases were tried simultaneously.
NARAYANGANJ COURT VERDICT
On January 16, Narayanganj District and Sessions Judge's Court found 35 people, including 25 former Rab officials and Nur Hossain, guilty of abduction and murder of seven people and destroying evidence.
It handed down death penalty to 26 people and jailed nine other accused for various terms, from seven to 17 years.
Of the 26 sentenced to death, 16 are former Rab members including Tareque, Arif and Masud. The rest include prime accused Nur Hossain and his cohorts.
When the verdict was delivered, 23 were in jail while 12 on the run.
Later, three surrendered before the Narayanganj court and two were arrested reducing the number of fugitives to seven.
After concluding the hearing on the death references and appeals, the High Court bench of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singh and Justice Mustafa Zaman on July 26 fixed August 13 (today) for delivering its verdict.
During the hearing, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam prayed to the court to uphold the trial court judgment while defence counsels sought acquittals of their clients.