Zia blamed for rebel’s hanging


Dhaka : A US journalist and writer has accused former Bangladesh president Ziaur Rahman for the hanging of a former army officer who turned a rebel in 1976.

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Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Lifschultz alleged in an affidavit that Zia decided to hang Colonel (Retd) Abu Taher, who turned a Marxist before a military tribunal sentenced him to death after “a so-called trial”.

Lifschultz, who reported a part of the trial before being arrested and expelled from Bangladesh, emailed the affidavit to the Bangladesh attorney general’s office that submitted it to the Dhaka High Court, The Daily Star reported Friday.

Rahman was then the chief martial law administrator. He became president in 1977 and was killed in a military-led coup in 1981.

Khaleda Zia, two-term prime minister and the current leader of the opposition, is his widow.

“This is a request I’ve been hoping to receive for more than 30 years. I would consider it one of the great honours of my life to stand in Justice Shamsuddin’s and Justice Hossain’s court room in Dhaka,” Lifshultz said.

“In my view, a tragic crime was committed in Dhaka during June and July 1976. I was one of the few witnesses to what happened in this case. On June 28, 1976 I stood in front of Dhaka Central Jail. It was the day the ‘so-called trial’ of Abu Taher and his colleagues began in secret, hidden behind the walls of a prison,” he said.

Additional Attorney General M.K. Rahman read out the statement before the bench hearing a writ petition challenging the martial law regulation under which the military tribunal was formed and Taher was sentenced to death.

Lifschultz, formerly with the Far Eastern Economic Review, termed Taher’s execution a “miscarriage of justice”.

He had recorded his version in a book, “Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution”.

“Taher’s execution ought to be called not only a miscarriage of justice but a crime committed by the state. Such a crime ought to be remedied by an institution of the state that has the power and capability to look back historically on crimes of the past,” he said.