After leading a fugitive life of nine years in the United States Lt Col (retd) Mohiuddin Ahmed, a killer of the founding father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was brought back to Dhaka yesterday from Los Angeles, as a US court rejected his appeal to stay.
Col Mohiuddin, one of 12 former army officers given death sentence for assassinating Sheikh Mujib and his family on August 15, 1975 through a bloody coup, was deported by the U.S. Homeland Security after a district court in California turned down his last appeal on June 14.
All the killers left Bangladesh after the coup and were absorbed in Bangladesh missions abroad following an understanding with the post ‘75 regimes.
Mohiuddin, 60, was a major at the time of the coup when most members of Sheikh Mujib’s family were killed and his three and half year old elected government was toppled.
Mohiuddin was tried in absentia and sentenced to death in 1998 during the second Awami League (AL) government led by Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, who was its Prime Minister.
While serving as a Bangladeshi diplomat in a Middle-Eastern country, Mohiuddin entered the United States on a visitor’s visa in 1996. Since then, he has fought a long legal battle to stay in the U.S.A.
Of the convicts, only four Lt Col (Retd) Syed Farooq Rahman, Lt Col (Retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt Col (retd) Mohiuddin and Maj (retd) Bazlul Huda are behind the bar. Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe, two are living in Canada, the remaining persons, including Lt Col Rashid are reportedly living in unknown places outside Bangladesh.
The death sentence against the convicts has not yet been executed as their appeals are still pending before the Supreme Court.
Mohiuddin was flown in to Zia International Airport at about 12:18 noon by a Thai airplane (TG-321) from Los Angeles. Two officials of the US Homeland Security escorted him to the airport. The US officials handed him to the airport immigration. They left Dhaka for Bangkok by the return flight at 1:20pm.
Airport Thana police arrested the repatriated convict under Section 54 of the CrPc on his return. Clad in bulletproof jacket and helmet in his head, he was whisked in a convoy to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) court amidst foolproof security at about 1:35pm.
Police produced him in the court of Magistrate Shafique Anwar along with a report. The report reads: Mohiuddin is a condemned fugitive in the case of assassination of Sheikh Mujib on August 15, 1975. The case was filed with Dhanmondi police station in 1996.
The court was also informed that he was also an absconding accused in the Jail Killing Case filed with Lalbagh thana in 1975 as well as in Abdur Rab Serniabat Killing Case filed with Ramna thana in 1996.
After hearing the case statements, the court ordered that Mohiuddin be sent to Dhaka Central Jail with “custody warrant”. He was put behind bar at Dhaka central jail at about 2:00pm.
Mohiuddin was deported after a District Court judge in California denied his last minute petition for a stay of deportation [Click here to view the judge’s decision.]. Mohiuddin was scheduled to be deported on June 2nd after losing his final appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals but filed a Habeas Corpus petition with the District Court in Central California on June 1st citing Congressman Jim McDermott’s private bill that aimed to give Mohiuddin a green card. The judge temporarily stayed his deportation until he had a chance to rule. Mohiuddin’s lawyers had contended "not only that the government’s execution of his removal order was improper, but also that on June 1, 2007, which was during Congress’ Memorial Day recess, staff members of the Department of Homeland Security ( "DHS" ) had misled congressional staff as to when Petitioner would be deported, thereby depriving him of the possibility that Members could intervene on his behalf."
The judge (1) denied Mohiuddin’s claim that DHS misled Congress and as a consequence he was deprived possibility of relief, and (2) dismissed Mohiuddin’s claim that the government’s execution of the deportation order was improper.
On the second claim, that the deportation was improper, the judge ruled he had no jurisdiction to hear a challenge to a deportation order.
On the first claim, that DHS lied to or misled Congress, the judge ruled that Mohiuddin’s argument does not prevail on the merits. The judge wrote in his decision:
As the government notes, Petitioner presents only extraordinarily thin evidence that DHS misled congressional staffers concerning the timing of his removal. His evidence is a declaration from an associate of his lawyer…
…even Petitioner himself acknowledges that some congressional staffers were told he could be deported at any time, and others were told his departure was imminent. Because both statements were true, Petitioner’s own evidence demonstrates it is virtually impossible that DHS misled congressional staffers at all, except on the remote possibility that some were intentionally kept out of the loop.
Moreover, contrary to Petitioner’s representation at the first oral argument, the Court has received no declarations from staffers or Members of Congress indicating they were misled.
Finally, even if a misrepresentation occurred, and even if it prevented congressional action that otherwise could have occurred, any injury that might have occurred has been mooted by this Court’s stays for further briefing. Because the House Judiciary Committee enacted its rules on June 6, 2007, it has now had a full week in which to act – with full knowledge of Petitioner’s predicament – but has declined to do so. Thus, Petitioner can hardly argue that any harm created by a misrepresentation remains ongoing.
The Court remains firm in this conclusion even after Petitioner’s contention at the second oral argument that "Congress is like the Titanic" and takes so much time to act that any misrepresentation could continue to prejudice Petitioner even now by delaying relief. Petitioner cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim that Congress could have been nimble enough to have helped him at the eleventh hour but for a DHS lie, but at the same time too sluggish to help him with a week’s notice.
Thus, for each reason set forth above, the Court concludes that Petitioner has no claim based on a misrepresentation from DHS to congressional staff.
The District Court judge did not accept Mohiuddin’s claim that DHS had tried to mislead Congress. Last week a Canadian reporter had written that it was the judge himself who "charged the Department of Homeland Security with misleading Congress, particularly those members fighting the deportation order." This report that the judge had "charged" DHS with misleading Congress was repeated by other news organizations. It turns out, from the judge’s ruling, that the "charge" came from Mohiuddin, and not from the judge. In fact, the judge found that Mohiuddin’s claim was "extraordinarily thin".
Thus ended Mohiuddin’s efforts to fight deportation. His 9 years in the United States as a fugitive from justice has now come to an end.
Mohiuddin’s return to Bangladesh is not a moment for celebration, but one of reflection. There is no joy in seeing murderers taken into custody – only sadness that the murders occurred. Justice has been delayed in this case, but nonetheless, it has now arrived. It is a solemn reminder of the frailty of human life and the capacity of some to take it with such ease.
Now Mohiuddin faces justice for murders he committed nearly 32 years ago. Mohiuddin’s return to Bangladesh is an important event in Bangladesh’s history. It is one important step in bringing to closure the national upheaval that began on August 15, 1975. One by one the killers of 1975 who had enjoyed impunity for so many years are being brought to justice.
With their return to Bangladesh comes tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of the current Bangladeshi government. It is the responsibility of being just in the execution of justice. Mohiuddin was successfully returned to Bangladesh because the US courts were confronted with overwhelming evidence from Mohiuddin’s trial. The US courts were able to satisfy themselves that the trial in Bangladesh was free and fair and that Mohiuddin had received due process. If his trial had been a show trial, his return to Bangladesh would not have occurred. Mohiuddin’s deportation demonstrates very clearly the importance of fair trials and due process. Now that Mohiuddin is in Bangladeshi custody, the current government needs to ensure that Mohiuddin’s remaining appeals to the Supreme Court of Bangladesh are handled as transparently as his trial in 1997. Mohiuddin received due process and a deliberate consideration of his petitions in the United States – that deliberate process must continue in Bangladesh.