Ex-army officer’s murder halts Bangladesh ‘gunfight’ deaths

By Azad Mazumder

Dhaka, Sep 3 (efe-epa).- Bangladesh passed a month on Thursday without killing in “gunfights”, a euphemism for staged shootouts, following a public outcry over the death of a retired army officer in police firing, according to rights defenders.

Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan, a former member of Special Security Force responsible for the security of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was shot dead by police at a checkpoint in Cox’s Bazar on July 31.

Police said they killed Khan, 36, in self-defense, suspecting him as a robber. But the army reacted furiously to his killing, raising tension between the two forces.

Army chief General Aziz Ahmed and police chief Benazir Ahmed visited the spot five days after the incident to defuse the tension.

Khan’s sister filed a murder case with the judicial magistrate court in Cox’s Bazar on Aug 5, accusing nine policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Teknaf Pradeep Kumar Das and an inspector.

Seven policemen, including Teknaf police chief Pradeep and prime accused, inspector Liyakat Ali, were arrested after their surrender to the court.

Six others accused were also arrested as the case drew wide public attention.

According to rights group Odhikar, over 4,000 people were killed by different law-enforcing agencies between 2001-2020 in Bangladesh.

Another Bangladeshi rights group Ain o Salish Kendra (AISK) said law-enforcers killed 183 people in “gunfights” from January to June 2020. These include 41 Rohingya refugees.

The AISK officials said the last extrajudicial killing was reported on Aug. 3 in the northeastern Sylhet district just before the beginning of public outcry over Khan’s killing.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and only the court has the power to punish someone. No one has the rights to punish outside the court,” said ZI Khan Panna, the AISK chairperson.

“After the Sinha (Khan) murder, people started speaking up, filed cases, as a result, extrajudicial killing by police came down. It’s a circumstantial matter. But we want it to be stopped forever. We don’t want to see any more extrajudicial killing.”

Cox’s Bazar public prosecutor Faridul Alam said the court received at least five complaints of extrajudicial killings against suspended Teknaf police chief Pradeep since the murder of the retired army major.

“Court ordered the concerned authorities to investigate all allegations. It would decide if formal cases would be recorded once investigations were completed,” he said.

One of the complaints came from the family of Syed Alam, who was allegedly killed by police along with his brother and a nephew in Teknaf on May 6.

Alam’s brother Shah Alam told EFE that 15-20 policemen and their sources picked up his two brothers along with their nephew on May 6 and killed them hours later as the family could not pay a five million takas ($59,000) police had demanded.

“Police demanded taka 50 lakh ($59,000) for their release. But we said it was not possible. Then they killed my brothers and nephew,” he said.

Alam claimed his brothers were salt growers in their coastal village and were not involved in any crime.

“We had a family feud, with some other villagers. They took police to kill our brothers. My nephew was just 17. They killed our brothers and filed a case against us,” he said.

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