87,600 hours and counting
Numbers in the quest for justice in Sagar-Runi murder keep getting longer as investigators continue to fail to make any headway in the investigation.
After the journalist couple was slain on this day in 2012, then home minister Sahara Khatun had vowed to catch the killers in 48 hours. The promise has not been fulfilled even in 10 years or roughly 87,600 hours.
Over the last 10 years, the investigation officer was changed six times, and the Rab and other agencies have taken 85 dates from court to complete the probe. But they have not been able to submit the investigation report.
Meanwhile, their repeated appeals for time extension to complete the probe created frustration among the victims' relatives.
"It's almost clear by now that we will not get justice during the tenure of this government. I really doubt its intention," Runi's brother Nowsher Alam Roman told The Daily Star recently.
"There is something fishy. Maybe, some influential people were involved in the killing … After 10 years, I now feel ashamed to seek justice," he said.
Sagar Sarowar, news editor at private TV channel Maasranga, and Meherun Runi, a senior reporter at ATN Bangla, were killed in the early hours of February 11, 2012, at their rented flat in the capital's West Rajabazar.
The couple's only child Mahir Sarowar Megh, only five at the time, was in the apartment.
Megh, now 15, used to live with his grandmother Nurun Nahar Mirza, but she passed away on January 15 this year, at the age of 64.
"My mother waited 10 agonising years for justice, but she was not able to see it served in her lifetime," said a frustrated Roman.
He also said they were hardly contacted by those investigating the case. "They tried to do their job in the first one or two years, but what they did later was nothing but an eyewash.
"I doubt if the Rab officials currently probing the case have any clues. They rarely contact us and whenever they do, they ask us silly questions," he said.
Roman also criticised the role of journalist organisations, alleging that some journalist leaders actually sabotaged their agitation seeking justice.
"People in general, including many journalists, are sympathetic towards Sagar-Runi, but journalist platforms do not do anything apart from holding some yearly programmes," he said.
NO HEADWAY IN SIGHT
After Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station and the Detective Branch of police failed to solve the case, Rab was tasked with the investigation on April 18, 2012.
In November 2019, the High Court expressed disappointment at the slow pace of the Rab investigation.
At least eight suspects, including Rafiqul Islam, Bakul Miah, Masum Mintu, Kamrul Islam alias Arun, Abu Sayeed, two security guards of the couple's house Palash Rudra Paul and Enayet Ahmed, and the couple's "friend" Tanveer Rahman Khan were arrested after the killing.
Tanveer and Palash are now on bail. The others are behind bars.
Rab IO Khandaker Md Shafiqul Alam is the seventh investigation officer in the case. He was given the job on July 4, 2019.
On October 7, 2020, he submitted a progress report into the double murder. He sought time extensions eight times last year to submit the probe report.
In the progress report, he said evidence seized from the crime scene was sent to the Independent Forensic Service (IFS), USA for DNA tests.
The IFS identified the DNA of two unidentified men. Later, another US DNA lab, Parabon Snapshot, was communicated for identifying the two, according to the report.
On January 24 this year, the Rab official once again failed to submit the probe report and then again filed for time extension. The court then set February 23 for the submission.
Contacted, IO Shafiqul said he would not make any comment for the "sake of investigation".
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan did not respond to our phone calls for comment yesterday.
Noted rights activist Nur Khan termed it a "total failure" of the law enforcement agencies.
"From the beginning of this case, the investigation agency tried to convey a wrong message to the people that the investigation is almost done. In reality, it is the complete opposite. They gave false promises," he said.
"The investigation agency is also not communicating with the victims' families. A perception has been created among people that some influential people are involved here," he added.