- Published on Saturday, 19 August 2017 18:03
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It came as quite a shock to Radwan Mujib Siddiq, when he was told by his family that there was a law in the country protecting the killers of his grandfather Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangladesh's founding father was assassinated with most of his family members in a military putsch 42 years ago.
Bangabandhu's two daughters, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana were in Germany when they lost their whole family in the carnage on Aug 15, 1975.
Siddiq, the son of Sheikh Rehana, youngest daughter of Bangabandhu, says he knew about it in 1986 when he was attending preschool in Dhaka.
"I was quite surprised…how can it be a law," he told a group of students and professionals on Saturday at a seminar in Dhaka.
He was addressing the seminar, ‘Bangabandhu Murder Case: Journey, Accomplishments and Remaining Challenges’ organised by the Awami League's research arm Centre for Research and Information (CRI).
After the assassination, Khandaker Mostaq Ahmad, a cabinet minister under Bangabandhu, took over the presidency and on Sep 26, 1975 promulgated the indemnity ordinance.
Later it was incorporated into the constitution as the Fifth Amendment in 1979, after reconstitution of parliament during the rule of military dictator Ziaur Rahman.
The amendment also legalised all military rules and orders given during the period of Aug 15, 1975 to Apr 9, 1979.
The 12 army men involved in the killings had been rewarded with jobs in diplomatic missions abroad during BNP founder Zia's regime.
"In 1986, my family moved to Dhaka and I was admitted at a kindergarten school in Banani, but was shifted to another school soon after," Siddiq said recalling his childhood memories.
"When I asked my mother why, her answer was the killers' sons went to the same school. I was told about the law when I asked how murderers can roam free?"
Recalling that children of his age then did not know anything about Bangabandhu, he said, “Our family never hides history. So we were briefed about the brutality.”
He added that he could not even speak about his grandfather in school for security reasons.
Twenty-one years after the killing of the independence leader, a trial began when the Awami League formed the government in 1996.
In November of the same year, the parliament repealed the Act paving the way for the prosecution of the killers.
Twelve people were awarded the death penalty for the assassination. In 2010, five of the convicts were executed while one died as a fugitive abroad. Six others are still absconding, including one of the masterminds, Abdur Rashid.
Convicts M Rashed Chowdhury and Noor Chowdhury have been traced to the US and Canada. The government says the process to bring them back is on.
Prosecutors and investigators of the Bangabandhu murder case, legal academics and senior journalists spoke at Saturday's seminar at the premises of the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.
Law Minister Anisul Huq, who was the chief prosecutor of Bangabandhu murder case, was the keynote speaker at the seminar moderated by Mizanur Rahman, former chief of Human Rights Commission.
The panelists included Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique, Awami League MP Fazilatunnesa Bappy, Chairman of Centre for Genocide Studies at the Dhaka University Delwar Hossain, and Executive Editor of Daily Janakantha Swadesh Roy.
Trustee of CRI and State Minister Nasrul Hamid , Bangabandhu Memorial Trust CEO Mashura Hossain, and Bangabandhu Museum's Curator Nazrul Islam Khan also spoke at the seminar.