Efforts on to bring back fugitives



The government has moved another step forward in ensuring justice for the August 15 bloodbath by executing a convicted killer this year while it expects to bring back at least one of the five fugitives from abroad within the Mujib Borsho.

The country is observing the period from March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021 as the Mujib Borsho to celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“I hope we will be able to bring back at least one fugitive killer within the Mujib Borsho,” Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told journalists on August 7.

Abdul Majed, a self-confessed killer who had long been hiding abroad, was hanged on April 12 this year while five other convicts — Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed — were executed on January 28, 2010.

Convicted killer Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe in 2001.

The five fugitives are Col (dismissed) Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Haque Dalim, Maj (retd) Nur Chowdhury, Maj (retd) Rashed Chowdhury and Risaldar Moslehuddin Khan.

Nur Chowdhury is in Canada and Rashed Chowdhury in the US.

The US government recently reopened a case against Rashed, signalling that he could face deportation and death sentence, according to a Politico magazine report.

Amid these developments, the nation today will observe the National Mourning Day and pay tribute to Bangabandhu and his family members brutally murdered on this day in 1975.

Contacted for details about the case against Rashed in the US, Law Minister Anisul Huq and Foreign Minister Abdul Momen refrained from making any comment to this newspaper.

“I don’t know about this [case against Rashed in the US]. I have read reports about it in newspapers. I am observing it now,” the law minister told The Daily Star on August 12 over the phone.

On April 12, he told the media, “Once again, I am promising in the Mujib Borsho that the government will bring all the fugitive killers back from abroad and execute their death sentence.”

This correspondent contacted Momen over the phone on August 11, to know the progress in bringing other fugitive killers back to the country. But he refused to give any details, saying he is making statements on this issue every day.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, a member of the taskforce formed to bring back the fugitives, told this correspondent on August 12 that he did not know about the case proceedings against Rashed in the US.

He said the foreign ministry can provide details about this issue.

“If the US deports Rashed Chowdhury to Bangladesh we will feel that the US believes in the rule of law and we will be happy,” he added.

WHAT POLITICO SAYS

US Attorney General William Barr has reopened a sprawling case against Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s fugitive killer Rashed Chowdhury, signalling that he could face deportation and death sentence, the US magazine reported on July 24.

Bangladesh Supreme Court upheld the High Court verdict that had given death sentences to 12 killers of Bangabandhu, including Rashed, in 2009. Rashed and his family went to the US in 1996 from Brazil on visitor visas and later got political asylum.

The Bangladesh government has been demanding that the US send back the convicted killer for many years to implement the court verdict.

The Politico, in the report titled “He thought he had asylum. Now, he could face a death sentence” said Attorney General William Barr quietly reopened the case that spans four decades and two continents.

It involves the killing of a president, a decades-old death sentence and a hard-fought battle for asylum pitting a former Bangladeshi military officer against the US Department of Homeland Security.

“For almost 15 years, the case was closed. But now, thanks to Barr, it’s back. And immigration lawyers say the move sends a chilling message to people who have received asylum in the US. It signals, they argue, that even after years of successful legal battles, any protection could still be revoked out of the blue,” Politico reports.

They also say the move’s timing is inscrutable.

“It’s purely a favour the Trump administration is doing for Bangladesh,” said Marc Van Der Hout, a lawyer for Rashed Chowdhury.

The Bangladesh government has for years been open about its efforts to persuade the US to extradite Rashed — whom it calls a cold-blooded assassin, it said.

“For years, the effort bore no fruit. But under the Trump administration, the government of Bangladesh has sounded optimistic notes,” the report said.

Last November, Bangladesh’s foreign minister said a senior US diplomat — Alice Wells, a career official who has since left government — asked him for documents related to Rashed’s trial so the US could review them.

In April this year, the foreign minister reportedly pressed the US ambassador in Dhaka, Earl Miller, on the case against Rashed.

And, on June 17, Barr directed the Board of Immigration Appeals to send Rashed’s case to him for review — making clear he would reopen the matter that had been decided more than a decade earlier.

The document in which the attorney general made this move doesn’t mention Rashed. But it refers to “the matter of A-M-R-C,” using his full initials. And the details of the case described in Barr’s announcement match Rashed’s.

Politico wrote that a spokesperson for the Bangladeshi embassy declined to comment for this story. A US Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson also declined to comment, noting the department does not confirm the identities of people in such proceedings.

A lawyer for Rashed, however, shared DOJ communications with Politico confirming that his is the case Barr reopened. Barr’s move is the first step in a process that could result in Rashed losing asylum after more than a decade and potentially facing deportation, it says.

STATUS OF NUR

In September last year, the Federal Court of Canada in a judgement said Bangladesh’s application for information about the status of Bangabandhu’s killer Nur Chowdhury is valid and the disclosure of such information would not hamper the public interest.

This verdict is one step forward for Bangladesh High Commission in Canada to get pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) information from the Canadian government. Judge James W O’Reilly delivered the judgment.

Nur and his wife were reportedly granted visitor status in Canada in 1996. Later, they applied for refugee protection.

In 2002, Nur and his wife were found to be excluded from refugee protection for having committed a serious non-political crime. Then, they were found to be inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality in 2006. In 2009, Nur requested a PRRA.

The Bangladesh government has been in discussions with Canadian officials about Nur’s status and has expressed concern about the delay relating to his PRRA application since 2010.

In 2018, the high commissioner of Bangladesh to Canada wrote to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship requesting to disclose, in the public interest, information about the status of Nur’s PRRA application and immigration status in Canada.

But the minister refused to do that saying that there was no information-sharing agreement between the two countries.

Bangladesh sought judicial review of the minister’s decision to disclose the status of Nur’s PRRA application. In response, the Canadian minister as well as Nur said Bangladesh’s request was premature and non-justiciable.

But the justice rejected Nur and the Canadian minister’s claim in the verdict.

“In my view, Bangladesh’s application for judicial review should be allowed because the minister failed to give serious consideration to the public interest that would be served if the information sought were disclosed,” the justice said in the observation of the verdict.





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