Scream of the assassin - Last hours of the plotters hanged in Dhaka past midnight

Read more below

By FARID HOSSAIN
  • Published 29.01.10
  •  

Dhaka, Jan. 28: Bazlul Huda, a bespectacled man in his 60s, was the first to walk to the gallows, his face covered with a black hood and hands cuffed behind.

As the guards escorted him to the brightly lit gallows inside Dhaka Central Jail, the former major and one of the plotters of Mujibur Rahman’s assassination struggled to free himself and screamed for his life as loud as he could.

Within minutes, he was on a wooden platform with a manila rope round his hooded neck. A jail official waved and dropped a red handkerchief to the ground — a signal for the executioner to go ahead.

As the executioner pulled the lever, the wooden planks under Huda’s feet slid open, letting his lanky frame swing into the void below.

“It’s over,” said a government doctor examining the body after it had been brought down from the gallows. “He is dead.”

It was just past midnight.

Only a couple of hours earlier, late on Wednesday night, Huda had met about two dozen members of his family, including wife Nafiza Mariam and sister Mahfuza Pasha Lisa.

“My brother was quiet for a long time when we met him,” Lisa said. “Then he broke down and asked for forgiveness. We all cried.”

Earlier yesterday, the Supreme Court had rejected the convicts’ final appeal, paving the way for the hanging of five former army officers for killing Bangladesh’s founding leader in a 1975 military coup.

The decision to hang the men last night was taken in a hurry. President Mohammad Zillur Rahman turned down a last-minute clemency plea by Syed Faruk Rahman, the top leader of the coup.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed announced after a meeting with jail officials that the five men would be executed any time.

Jail authorities started making calls to the families of the five men asking them to come and see their loved ones as soon as possible. Unlike in the past, no limit was put on the number of visitors.

“Come with as many relatives as you can,” an official told Lisa over the phone.

When the families arrived, the mood in the jail turned grim.

“My father hugged us all and said goodbye for the last time as he was being led away by the guards after the most painful two hours of my life,” said Sehnaz Rashid, daughter of Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan.

Sehnaz was proud of her father, the only one among the five convicts not to seek a presidential pardon.

“My father was a freedom fighter; and a man who fights for the independence of his country never begs for his life,” Sehnaz said.

Once the families left, the five men were told to retire to their cells, take a bath and offer their night prayers. They were asked if they wanted to eat anything special that they loved. Then came a cleric to assist the men in reciting from the Quran.

All the five men had looked very upset when they heard that the Supreme Court had rejected their last appeal. Faruk and another convict spat a few abuses at the jail officials.

As the day wore on, they all became sober and asked for forgiveness from whomever they met, a guard who had watched them in their last hours said.

Huda was followed to the gallows by Muhiuddin Ahmed. Faruk and Shahriar were next, followed by Mahiuddin Ahmed.

The government is now focusing on the six other convicted coup leaders who are fugitives abroad. They are Noor Chowdhury, believed to be in the US; Shariful Haq Dalim (Canada); Faruk’s brother-in-law Khandaker Abdur Rashid (Pakistan); M.A. Rashed Chowdhury (South Africa); Mosleuddin (Thailand) and Abdul Mazed (Kenya).

A 12th man sentenced to death, Abdul Aziz Pasha, died in exile in Zimbabwe.

A trial, held only after Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister in 1996, had found all 12 involved in the 1975 coup and the killing of Mujib, most of his family members and some aides.

The trial remained incomplete after Hasina lost power in the 2001 elections, but resumed after she led her party to a massive victory in December 2008.