Bangladesh Requested Malaysia to Arrest Ex-Envoy for ‘Involvement’ in 1975 Killings

Muzliza Mustafa, Nisha David and Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2022.02.11
Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka
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Bangladesh Requested Malaysia to Arrest Ex-Envoy for ‘Involvement’ in 1975 Killings Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (center) listens to an aide as she prepares to speak at a rally to mark the 22nd anniversary of the killing of four former Awami League leaders who were shot dead in the Dhaka central jail in 1975, in Dhaka, Nov. 3, 1997.
[Reuters]

A former Bangladeshi ambassador arrested in Malaysia this week was picked up at Dhaka’s request “because he was involved” in the 1975 jailhouse killing of former ministers, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Friday.

For their part, Malaysian officials said Friday that M. Khairuzzaman, Bangladesh’s ex-high commissioner to Malaysia, was arrested for overstaying his visa – despite holding a United Nations refugee card and living in the Kuala Lumpur area for more than a decade.

“Yes, we requested the Malaysian government to arrest Khairuzzaman as he was involved in [the] jail killing[s],” Khan, the Bangladeshi minister, told BenarNews.

“We will continue our efforts to bring him back.”

Khairuzzaman was acquitted in the sensational case in 2004, when Bangladesh was led by the party that is the main opposition party today. On Thursday, authorities in Dhaka said that the current Awami League government would look into reviving the case against Khairuzzaman, a former army officer, were he to be deported home from Malaysia.

A Malaysian government source said Khairuzzaman, who’s being held in custody by the immigration department, had been arrested despite being the holder of a United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) card.

“He was detained under Section 51(b) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 Act 155 and 1963 Immigration Regulation 1963 for overstaying,” said the source who was speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

There was no information on whether or when the former envoy would be extradited. Malaysia’s home minister had said on Thursday that Khairuzzaman’s arrest was made according to the law.

UNHCR officials declined to confirm or deny whether Khairuzzaman or his representative had sought the agency’s help.

“For protection and confidentiality reasons, UNHCR is not in a position to comment on the details of individual cases,” said a UNHCR spokesperson in Kuala Lumpur.

Khairuzzaman had previously been implicated in turmoil that followed a military coup in August 1975, when Bangladesh’s founding leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League, was assassinated. .

Khairuzzaman and other military personnel were accused of killing four other founding leaders of Bangladesh – Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M. Mansur Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman – inside the Dhaka Central Jail in November 1975.

Twenty-nine years later, when Bangladesh was led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, a court acquitted Khairuzzaman of involvement in the 1975 killings. Back then, the prosecution did not appeal the decision.

Khairuzzaman had been serving as a diplomat in Kuala Lumpur when Hasina and the Awami League returned to power in 2009. Ordered back to Dhaka, he chose to stay in Malaysia and received a refugee card from UNHCR.

Lawyer: Govt must show reasonable grounds

On Thursday, M. Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s state minister for foreign affairs, said that the government planned to revisit the case about Khairuzzaman’s alleged involvement in those killings of the Awami League senior leaders decades ago, to see if it could be resurrected.

“The Home and Law ministries will jointly look into whether there is an opportunity to revive the [jail killings] case against him or what steps can be taken afterward.”

But the government would have to show reasonable grounds if it wanted to appeal the trial court verdict of more than a decade ago, according to Jyotirmoy Barua, a practicing lawyer at the High Court.

“According to Bangladeshi law, the appeal must be done within 30 days since publication of the trial court verdict. But the government had not appealed against the verdict acquitting Khairuzzaman,” Barua told BenarNews.

“If the High Court accepts the government explanation, only then the government would be able to appeal against the trial court verdict,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian human rights legal group on Friday urged the government to release Khairuzzaman from custody, saying he is a political refugee and would be treated inhumanely were he to be sent back to Bangladesh.

“Irrespective of the reason of arrest, which the home minister suspiciously refuses to disclose, Khairuzzaman’s refugee status must preclude him from being repatriated. As a political refugee, there is no doubt that Khairuzzaman would face severe consequences if he is sent back to Bangladesh,” the Lawyers for Liberty group said in a statement.

“It should be noted that credible international organizations have recorded unlawful killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as political show trials ending in executions occurring regularly in Bangladesh,” said Zaid Malek, the group’s head coordinator.

He urged the home minister and Malaysian government to respect international human rights norms when dealing with this case.

“Khairuzzaman must be released from custody immediately, and be accorded the protection he is entitled to as a political refugee,” Zaid said.

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