Former Bangladeshi lawmaker charged over death of prominent Catholic

For years family members had attempted to register a murder case against a former ruling Awami League party MP
Former Bangladeshi lawmaker charged over death of prominent Catholic

A file image of Abul Kalam Azad, a former MP from Bangladesh's ruling Awami League party. Azad and 12 others have been charged with murder. (Photo supplied)

A former Bangladeshi parliamentarian has been charged with the murder of a prominent indigenous Catholic who died five years ago.

Abul Kalam Azad, a former ruling Awami League party MP from the Govindaganj constituency in Bangladesh’s north, was charged with 12 others on April 9 with murder over the death of Ovidio Marandy.

Ovidio’s brother, Father Samson Marandy from Dinajpur Diocese, filed the case on behalf of his family. Family members had attempted to register a murder case for years.

Partha Bhadra, senior judicial magistrate, accepted the complaint and fixed June 12 as the case’s first day of hearing.

At the time of his death Ovidio Marandy, then 32, was assistant commissioner of land in Govindaganj of Gaibandha district.

He was found dead and his motorbike partly damaged on a village road in the area on Jan. 11, 2014. He was reportedly driving to his place of work after spending a weekend at his home in neighboring Naogaon district.

Local authorities declared his death a road accident and hastily buried his body. Six months later, a court ordered his body to be exhumed for a post-mortem examination. The subsequent report has not been made public but Jahidul Islam, officer in charge of Govindaganj police station, told ucanews.com that it supported the claim that Ovidio’s death was due to a road accident.

“The police case also recorded it as an RTA (road traffic accident) and detectives also identified it as an accident,” Islam said.

But police say they are still investigating the case.

Alleged plot

The court complaint alleges the accused plotted and killed Ovidio because he resisted illegal activities allegedly being committed by Abul Kalam Azad and his men.

Among the criminal activities that Azad was allegedly involved in, the family say, was the grabbing of land from local indigenous peoples.

“Azad conducted a reign of terror in the area for a long time,” Father Samson Marandy told ucanews.com. “He grabbed and leased land held by poor people including ethnic communities plus government’s tax-free land,” he said.

Azad was also allegedly involved in the violent eviction of thousands of ethnic Santal Christians from disputed land in the area in November 2016.

The priest alleged anyone who stood up to Azad put their lives at risk. “My brother clashed with him over the land grabbing issue, so Azad plotted and had him killed,” he said.

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Azad then used his political position to make it look like a road accident and Ovidio’s family was blocked from seeking justice through the courts, the priest alleged.

“He is less powerful now because he is no longer a MP. His party has denied him from candidacy in the last election, so we can now seek justice,” Father Marandy said. 

Azad became an MP in the 2014 national elections, but he failed to secure his candidacy in last national election in Dec. 30, 2018.

He has denied charges made against him and called them a “political conspiracy.”

“It is political vengeance. Ovidio Marandy died in a road accident and a police probe is nearing completion supporting that outcome. I am surprised that the court has accepted a new case in this regard,” Azad told Bengali Daily Samakal on April 9.

Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur said the Church would support Ovidio’s family in seeking justice.

“The case filing has been delayed. He was a MP who was an influential politician, so it took time to gather the courage to sue him,” said Bishop Tudu. “The Church stands for justice, as did Ovidio Marandy.” 

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