Bangladesh police drop 2 prime suspects in union leader’s beating death

Reyad Hossain
Bangladesh police drop 2 prime suspects in union leader’s beating death Bangladesh garment workers rally outside the National Press Club in Dhaka to demand justice for slain colleagues, Nov. 23, 2023.
Mehedi Rana/BenarNews

A Bangladesh court this week rejected a no-confidence application filed by labor officials challenging a decision by police to drop two prime suspects in the June 2023 beating death of a union leader for garment workers.

Shahidul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation’s Gazipur unit, was fatally beaten on June 25 following his visit to the Prince Jacquard Sweater Ltd. company where he negotiated over wages on behalf of workers at the factory on the outskirts of Dhaka. 

The ready-made garment industry, an engine of Bangladesh’s export economy, employs several million people, mostly women, who work long hours for relatively small pay. The killing angered the labor movement in the South Asian nation and shone a spotlight on workers in the garment industry being able to work without fear of reprisals for seeking decent wages and workplace rights.   

A day after Islam’s killing, Kalpana Akter, the federation’s central president, filed a murder case at the Tongi West Police Station naming six suspects, including the factory owner and one of his close associates.

On Feb. 24, the Gazipur Industrial Police submitted its own charge sheet, dropping the pair from the complaint.

About a month later, on March 25, Akter filed a no-confidence petition demanding the case be reinvestigated – only to have the Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Gazipur reject the application, according to Munim Khan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. 

“We are not yet sure why the court did not accept our application. But after collecting the documents, we will challenge it and go to the judge’s court in Gazipur,” Khan said.

One reason for a possible appeal is that the exclusion of the factory owner and his associate will not ensure justice, the lawyer said.

The petition viewed by BenarNews notes that the factory owner who is not named and a trader identified as Kamrul Islam had been dropped from the charge sheet submitted by police.

“The investigating officer filed the charge sheet without asking the plaintiff’s witnesses and sought the acquittal of the accused,” the petition said, adding, as a result, the plaintiff would be deprived of justice because the main suspects in the case are out of reach.

In addition, potential charges against two other suspects, including one who is Kamrul Islam’s brother, have been lessened, according to Khan, the lawyer.

The Gazipur Industrial Police officer in charge of its investigation said it was done properly.

“We have worked impartially. The charge sheet has been submitted based on what we found in the investigation,” Additional Superintendent Imran Ahmed told BenarNews.

He noted that a charge sheet was filed against eight other suspects not named by the labor leaders as a result of the police investigation.

28 BD-garment-2.jpg
Garment employees work in a sewing section of the Snowtex Outerwear Ltd. factory in Savar, Bangladesh, Aug. 9, 2021. [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

Ambassador speaks out

Shortly after Shahidul Islam’s killing, the U.S. ambassador met with Bangladesh union leaders where he condemned the killing and called for speedy prosecutions. 

“We will be watching the case carefully to make sure that there is accountability,” Ambassador Peter Haas said at the time.

More recently, members of the International Labor Organization’s governing body discussed the killing during a meeting in Geneva earlier this month.

Abdur Rahim Khan, inspector general of Bangladesh’s Directorate of Inspection of Factories and Establishments, attended the meeting. 

“The issue was discussed in the meeting. But Bangladesh highlighted its side saying that police already submitted the charge sheet with the court against the people involved in the incident,” he told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, federation General Secretary Babul Akhtar said the government promised the case would be finished as soon as possible. 

“That’s why we are fearing that the case may end with a name-only verdict,” he said.

“There is fear of skipping the real culprits skipping away from the charges,” he said.


The plaintiffs could appeal their case all the way to the High Court, if necessary, said labor and employment law consultant Jafrul Hasan Sharif. 

“For the sake of justice, if any party gives any objection, it should be taken into account and settled,” he told BenarNews. “The case should be settled in such a way that neither side finds any loopholes.”

The executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, an organization of garment industry owners, said he wanted justice.

“We want the real culprits to be punished,” Mohammad Hatem told BenarNews. “I am suggesting labor leaders give to police any evidence they have that is not part of the investigation.” 


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