Dr S Taher Ahmed
Prof Taher Murder
Shibir leader Salehi acquitted
Anwar Ali and Abu Kalam, Rajshahi
A Rajshahi court yesterday sentenced to death four persons including Rajshahi University (RU) teacher Dr Mia Mohammad Mohiuddin for the gruesome killing of RU geology and mining department teacher Dr S Taher Ahmed.
The three others are caretaker at Taher's residence Jahangir Alam, his brother Abdus Salam and brother-in-law Nazmul. They had made judicial confessions.
In the judgement, Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge ATM Mesbauddoula acquitted two of the accused -- former RU Islami Chhatra Shibir president Mahbubul Alam Salehi, a suspected mastermind of the killing, and Jahangir's father Azimuddin Munshi.
Mohiuddin, a brother-in-law of former post and telecommunications minister Barrister Aminul Haque (absconding for long) belonged to pro BNP-Jamaat teachers' alliance at RU while three other killers were Shibir adherents, the case documents say.
Public Prosecutor (PP) Jahangir Alam briefed journalists after delivery of the judgement as they were not allowed in the courtroom.
Security was stepped up in around the court with two platoons of policemen deployed from morning.
The PP said the court was convinced that Mohiuddin had become hostile to his senior colleague Taher as the latter's honesty was a barrier to his promotion.
The court was also convinced that Mohiuddin was involved in plagiarism and piracy in preparing his research papers since he tried even to befool the court submitting forged papers.
Taher never behaved ill with Mohiuddin, the PP quoted the judge as saying. Taher's findings of piracy were enough to prevent Mohiuddin's promotion, he added.
About Salehi's acquittal, the judge explained that although he was named in judicial confessions, the prosecution could not substantiate that with evidence.
Moreover, Salehi was said to have pressed pillow on Taher's face causing his death, but medical reports and depositions of doctors concerned revealed his death was not due to suffocation, the PP said.
Azimuddin was accused in the case for knowing that Jahangir had kept in his house the knife used in the murder.
Asked why four Shibir men including central office secretary Rejaul Karim and RU unit president Delwar Hossain Sayeedi were allowed in the court while journalists were barred, the PP said, "It was a separate case "All but lawyers and case-related people were not llowed in the court following the judge's order for security."
After the judgement was delivered, Jamaat-Shibir men led by Rajshahi city Jamaat President Ataur Rahman brought out a silent procession on the court premises, and expressed satisfaction. Salehi showed victory signs raising his hands.
Mohiuddin broke down in tears. The three other killers however expressed wrath against some RU teachers shouting that they are victims of their conspiracy.
Dr S Taher Ahmed, professor of geology and mining, was killed on February 1, 2006 at the age of 59, and police recovered his body from a septic tank well behind his campus residence on February 3.
He was murdered only a year after the killing of RU economics teacher Prof Mohammad Yunus.
According to judicial confessions in the case, both Mohiuddin and Salehi were present during the killing and they had confirmed his death by touching his body in Jahangir's room at Taher's residence.
Then they followed the body while it was being taken to the septic tank for dumping.
MOTIVE BEHIND KILLING
The charges pressed say Mohiuddin planned the murder in connivance with Salehi, promising money, computers and jobs for hired killers. Mohiuddin did this to avoid damages to his career as Taher had detected 'piracy' in his research papers.
INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL
Within seven days of the killing, police arrested five accused including Mohiuddin.
Salehi remained out of police drag net due to protection by Jamaat-Shibir till a court cancelled his bail in April last year.
Local Jamaat-Shibir leaders staged a big showdown in the city with Salehi present there on February 10, 2006. They asked policemen to arrest Salehi 'if they can'.
Police had to delay pressing charges till May 18 last year because of political pressure although investigation was completed over a year ago (in May 2006).
Trial of the case had started at the public safety tribunal on June 18 last year.
On August 20, Jahangir Alam Mollah, judge of the publotribunal, refused to conduct the case citing "unavoidable circumstances".
The Court of District and Sessions Judge AR Masud on October 7 stayed the case proceedings for an indefinite period following errors in a government gazette notification for shifting the case to the speedy trial tribunal.
After necessary corrections, the trial proceedings started in December last year.
Prof Taher's family members expressed mixed reaction to the judgement while two former RU vice chancellors and many of the teachers expressed disappointment over it.
But Jamaat-Shibir was quite happy about the verdict as Salehi was acquitted.
Plaintiff of the case and Taher's Sanjid Alvi Ahmed said, "We are happy at the judgment but acquittal of Salehi has disappointed us. We have asked for a copy of judgement so that we can further consult our lawyers."
Taher's wife Sultana Ahmed appeared unhappy at the verdict. "I want to say nothing about the court's decision, our lawyers will deal with it".
Meanwhile, Salehi was freed from Rajshahi Central Jail in the afternoon. Hundreds of Jamaat- Shibir men greeted him at the jail gate and took him away.
When contacted, Sanjid said they would challenge 'part of the verdict' in higher courts.
Their councel Golam Arif Tipu said Salehi could be punished depending on the judicial confessions as investigators firmly spoke of his involvement in the murder.
PP Jahangir Alam however said Salehi was acquitted giving him the benefit of doubt as there was no prosecution witness or evidence against him.
Littérateur Prof Hasan Azizul Haque said, "I am hurt, agitated and frustrated at the verdict. It proved shortcomings in our legal system where a killer can be saved".
Former RU vice chancellor Dr M Saidur Rahman Khan said, "I astonished to see a killer released."
Prof Abdul Khaleque, another former RU VC, and Prof Moloy Kumar Bhaowmik expressed similar views.