BUET student abrar murder verdict: 20 students get death
Twenty Buet students were sentenced to death yesterday for their direct involvement in the murder of a fellow student in a dorm room, an incident that shocked the nation two years ago.
The Dhaka court also sentenced five other Buet students to life imprisonment for their role in the grisly murder of Abrar Fahad Rabbi, who was a second year student of the country's premier engineering university.
The five students are also fined Tk 50,000 each, defaulting which would mean one more year in prison. Life imprisonment means 30 years in jail.
Twelve of the convicts were members of Buet Chhatra League, the student wing of ruling Awami League, while the rest were their followers. Twenty-two of the convicts are in jail and three are on the run.
Abrar was a student of electrical and electronics engineering. The convicts began torturing him with skipping ropes and cricket stumps inside a room of Sher-e-Bangla Hall on the night of October 6, 2019. They kept beating him up until early morning even though the 21-year-old threw up, urinated, and pleaded for water.
His battered body was found by several students under the staircase of the dormitory early in the morning. The killing sparked widespread student demonstrations on campuses and other places for justice and prompted the Buet administration to ban political activities on campus.
The court yesterday said it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused colluded with each other and beat Abrar, saying that the latter was a Shibir man and making false allegations against him.
Circumstantial and ocular evidence, confessions of the accused and CCTV footage have proven their involvement in the killing, said Judge Abu Zafar Md Kamaruzzaman of the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1.
"The incident hurt all the people of Bangladesh. The tribunal decided to award the highest punishment to all the accused to prevent recurrence…" reads the verdict.
Death penalty to such a large number of students in a single case is quite uncommon. Conviction for campus killing is also quite rare.
According to the charge sheet, the accused held meetings for two consecutive days with the sole intention to beat Abrar to death. And they did what they intended to do. They beat him 50 to 60 times inside the Sher-e-Bangla Hall of Buet. Although Abrar threw up and urinated, they beat him 40 to 50 times again.
The murder prompted the United Nations to express grave concern over the pattern of campus violence in Bangladesh.
Amid protests, Buet authorities in less than a week of the murder banned all political activities on campus and suspended 19 students, mostly BCL leaders.
Abrar's father Barkat Ullah filed a murder case with Chawkbazar Police Station on October 7.
In November 2019, the Detective Branch of police pressed charges against 25 Buet students. The tribunal framed charges against them in September last year.
The trial proceedings concluded last month after several months' delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yesterday morning, police brought 22 accused from Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj and took them to the court around 11:40am.
Some of them were seen talking to their lawyers while others remained quiet.
The judge arrived at 11:57am in a packed courtroom.
While reading out a summary of the judgment, the judge cited rulings from India and Bangladesh's courts.
The judge then announced the punishments. As the judge left the courtroom at 12:14pm, the convicts were seen talking with their lawyers and each other. They were later taken to jail in a prison vehicle.
After the verdict, Abrar's father Barkat told reporters: "We will get justice when this verdict is executed after being upheld by the higher court."
Chief Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol also expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
However, Monjur Alam Monju, lawyer for Amit Shaha, who was given the prison sentence, said his client was out of campus at the time of the incident to celebrate Puja and thus was not involved with the incident.
Amit will file an appeal with the High Court, he said.
Besides, Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said, "Natural justice and rule of law have been ensured in the verdict."
The government cooperates with the High Court for quick disposal of the case and its documents will reach the HC in seven days, he told reporters at his office in Gulshan.