Lifschultz tells HC & submits written statement on Taher killing

Bangabandhu Killing, Zia passively involved
Gen Ziaur Rahman was passively involved in the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, US journalist and writer Lawrence Lifschultz yesterday told the High Court.

This has become clear from the conversations with Col Farooq Rahman and Col Abdur Rashid, convicted killers of Bangabandhu, and from the book Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood written by Anthony Mascarenhas, he said.

He said Ziaur Rahman was in the shadow of the whole episode of August 15, 1975 because he was very much one of the main players of the game.

In reply to a question from the HC, Lifschultz said Ziaur Rahman could have stopped the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman because he (Zia) knew the plot.

Zia was a complicated man and was the main beneficiary of the assassination, he said, adding, Zia was responsible for killing many freedom fighters including army official Khaled Mosharaf.

The Pulitzer Prize winner who had covered the trial of Col Abu Taher in 1976 placed his statement before the HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain.

The bench is hearing a writ petition that challenged the martial law regulation under which the military tribunal was formed and Taher was sentenced to death.

Earlier on January 20, the HC bench requested Lifschultz to appear before it to place a statement on the trial and execution of Taher.

Lifschultz on January 31 sent a written statement to the HC bench through the Attorney General’s Office saying that Gen Ziaur Rahman made the decision of Col Abu Taher’s execution before formation of the military tribunal that gave the execution order.

Gen Manzur, then high-ranked military officer, knew with absolute certainty that Zia had decided to have Taher hanged before the “so-called trial” began, Lifschultz said in the statement.

“Subsequently, this fact was also confirmed to me by two high-ranking military officers, who were close to Zia at that time,” he said in his January 31 statement, which was placed before the HC bench on February 3.

Lifschultz yesterday appeared before the same HC bench around 2:30pm and placed a written and a verbal statement before it.

He said the trial of Col Taher was not even a show-trial since it had no projection or demonstration.

There existed a “Special Military Tribunal No 1” which convened at the Dhaka Central Jail. “I was there. I stood outside the prison. I watched men, like Colonel Yusuf Haider, the so-called Tribunal’s chairman, walk through the prison gates,” he said in the written statement.

It was a premeditated assassination of which Ziaur Rahman was the assailant, Lawrence Lifschultz who arrived in Dhaka on March 12 told the court.

Although Zia had convened a meeting of the generals returned from Pakistan as Moudud Ahmed stated in a book, the decision to kill Taher was taken exclusively by Zia, he said, adding that he (Zia) had convened that meeting only to pretend that those generals had involvement in killing Taher.

“Moudud Ahmed claimed that Ziaur Rahman had convened a gathering of 46 “repatriated” officers to discuss the sentence that should be passed on Taher. It was well known that not a single officer who had participated in the Liberation War was willing to serve on Special Military Tribunal No 1. But General Zia’s special convocation of repatriates appears to have ended with unanimous decision. They wanted Taher to hang,” his written statement said.

“Moudud claims his source for this story was General Zia himself. In this respect, Moudud’s version of events tallies with what General Manzur claimed to me regarding General Zia having personally taken the decision on what the verdict would be. One man, Ziaur Rahman, decided, on his own, to take another’s life. He then asked a group of about fifty officers to endorse his decision,” he stated.

The US journalist said he had tried to go inside the so-called court but was not allowed.

“I had tried to meet Ziaur Rahman many times for taking an interview from him, but he did not allow me to do so,” he said, adding that he was expelled from Bangladesh at that time.

Replying to another question from the HC, Lifschultz said he could not term it as anything other than assassination, as Syed Badrul Ahsan, a journalist of The Daily Star, stated in 2006 that it was purely and simply a murder.

“Syed Badrul Ahsan has called the Taher case ‘murder pure and simple’. In an article published in July 2006, Ahsan writes: ‘When he (Lifschultz) speaks of Colonel Taher and the macabre manner of his murder (it was murder pure and simple) in July 1976, he revives within our souls all the pains we have either carefully pushed under the rug all these years or have been allowed to feel through the long march of untruth in this country,’ according to the statement.

Zia decided to kill Taher as he wanted to appease the army officers repatriated from Pakistan and also consolidate the grief on power.

Taher wanted to return democracy in the country, but Zia wanted to rule the country as a dictator, he said.

Lifschultz said it was one of the saddest human rights violations in the whole of Asia.

He said he had been trying to get the whole truth for so many years and he was happy that he was now in a position to disclose whatever information he had before the HC.

The court will resume the hearing today.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Additional Attorney General also appeared before the court

Source : The Daily Star – Lawrence Lifschultz • Ashutosh Sarkar


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