The Pulse | Politics | South Asia

Bangladesh Arrests Fugitive Killer of Independence Leader 

Abdul Majed, a former military captain, was arrested in Dhaka. It’s not clear when or how he returned to Bangladesh.

By Julhas Alam for
Bangladesh Arrests Fugitive Killer of Independence Leader 
Credit: Pixabay

Police in Bangladesh arrested a fugitive killer of the country’s independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Tuesday, nearly 45 years after the brutal assassination, the country’s home minister said.

Abdul Majed, a former military captain, was arrested in the capital, Dhaka, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, adding that the arrest was “the biggest gift” for Bangladesh this year. 

Majed had publicly announced his involvement in the assassination after the killing and had reportedly been hiding in India for many years. It was not clear when or how he returned to Bangladesh. 

Majed is one of a dozen defendants whose death sentences were upheld by the country’s Supreme Court in 2009. A trial court in 1998 sentenced them to death for their involvement in the August 15, 1975, killing of Rahman and most of his family members by a group of army officials. 

Rahman is the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

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In early 1975, amendments to the constitution replaced the parliamentary system with a presidential system — shifting power toward Rahman (this was reversed in 1991). Rahman then banned political parties in the name of unity. Economic hardship, censorship, corruption and a host of other issues generated the conditions in which the conspiracy to assassinate Rahman arose.

Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana were the only survivors in the family, as they were visiting West Germany during the assassination. The sisters could not return to Bangladesh and took refuge in India. Hasina returned to Bangladesh in May 1981.

After the assassination, subsequent governments and later President Ziaur Rahman rewarded the killers by posting them mostly in Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions abroad. Rahman — an ex-army chief and the husband of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, an archrival of Hasina — was killed in a military coup in 1981. Ziaur Rahman and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were not related.

Hasina served as prime minister from 1996 to 2001, and again from 2009 to the present. 

In 2010, five others who admitted to taking part in the assassination were hanged. One man died of natural causes in Zimbabwe. The other six convicts, including Majed, remained at large. At least one of them is in Canada and another in the United States, officials say. 

Majed was jailed following his arrest on Tuesday. The jail authorities will complete procedures for his execution, but it was not immediately clear when that would take place.

Bangladesh became independent in 1971 through a nine-month war against what was then West Pakistan, now Pakistan, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was kept in jail in Pakistan during the war and was freed in 1972 amid a global outcry when he returned to newly born Bangladesh via London and India. 

By Julhas Alam for the Associated Press, with additional reporting by The Diplomat.