Bangladesh: 7 Face Charges in Killing of Italian Aid Worker

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.06.28
Dhaka
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160628-BD-tavella-arrests-620.jpg Bangladesh police present four suspects in the Sept. 28, 2015, killing of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella, Oct. 26, 2015.
Photo: Benar

Updated at 11:03 a.m. ET on 2016-06-29

Nine months after gunmen shot dead Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella in Dhaka’s high-security diplomatic quarter, police said Tuesday they had framed charges against seven suspects including an opposition politician.

Police on Monday submitted a charge sheet in court against M.A. Quayum, a joint secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and six other suspects, Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews.

“The next stage is the court will set a date and hear the case for trial,” Rahman said.

Those charged are in the Sept. 28, 2015, killing are Quayum and his brother, M.A. Matin, Tamzid Hossain Rubel, Rasel Chowdhury, Minhazul Arefin (Bhagne Rasel), Sakhawat Hossain and Sohel (Bhangari Sohel), according to Rahman.

Four of the suspects – Rasel Chowdhury, Sakhawat Hossain, Tamzid Hossain Rubel and Minhazul Arefin – were arrested on Oct. 26 on charges related to Tavella’s killing. At the time, police said three of the suspects had confessed amid reports that a closed-circuit camera had filmed them near the scene of the fatal shooting.

The killing of Tavella, 50, who worked for the Dutch-based Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), caused Western embassies in Bangladesh to issue security alerts for their citizens traveling to or living in the country. Following the slaying, Australia’s national men’s cricket team also postponed a tour of Bangladesh over safety concerns.

Cesare Tavella [Focus Bangla]

Interpol to be contacted

Sheikh Mohammad Nazmul Alam, a deputy commissioner of the detective branch, told reporters Tuesday that Quayum had planned the killing, but fled afterward.

“He has been absconding. We will resort to the Interpol to catch him,” said Alam, according to local media reports. He said the six others have been in jail.

“Tavella was killed because they [the opposition BNP and its ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami] tried to portray that Bangladesh was not safe for the foreigners,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.

“Their plan was to create anarchy in the country and make the government friendless. No militants killed him. The perpetrators are professional killers,” he said.

According to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, the extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for Tavella’s killing, but Kamal and other officials have since consistently rejected such claims by insisting that IS has no presence in Bangladesh.

Tavella was the only Westerner killed in a spate of deadly attacks that have targeted secular bloggers, publishers, intellectuals, religious minorities, foreigners and gay-rights activists since February 2013, and which Bangladeshi authorities mostly have blamed on Islamic extremists.

Tavella was among 36 people killed in such attacks in Bangladesh during the past three years.

Kamal has repeatedly told BenarNews that home-grown militants were responsible for most of these killings and that local groups have linked themselves to the IS brand “to add value to their names.”

BNP condemns charges

BNP officials reacted angrily to the news of charges being framed against Quayum.

“Bringing charges against the seven people including M.A. Quayum is politically motivated. Through this, the government has exposed that it has been protecting militants and blaming the BNP,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Militant groups have sprung up in Bangladesh because the government has been “busy with suppressing the BNP and other opposition groups,” he said.

An earlier version incorrectly reported the date on which police framed charges against the suspects.

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