ucanews.com reporter, DhakaUpdated: May 22, 2014 10:15 PM GMT
RAB officers patrol in Dhaka during a strike last year (file photo: Stephan Uttom)
Bangladeshi police have charged two top officers from an elite anti-terror unit with the abduction and contract killing of seven people.
In an unprecedented move against members of the country’s powerful law enforcement agencies, Lieutenant Colonel Tareque Sayeed Mohammad and Major Arif Hossain of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were charged with murder and abduction on Thursday in the Narayanganj district court near Dhaka. Another accused RAB officer, Lieutenant Commander SM Masud Rana, is to go before the court on Sunday.
The trio were forced to retire from service on May 7 after local media reports accused them of involvement in the April abduction and extrajudicial killing of seven people including a local politician from the ruling Awami League and a senior lawyer. They were then arrested in Dhaka on May 17 and 18 respectively.
“Witnesses and evidence prove that the suspects were directly involved in the kidnapping and killings of seven people,” said Mamunur Rashid, investigation officer for the case.
Families of the victims have accused rival Awami League politician Nur Hossain of paying the RAB to carry out the killings. Hossain remains at large and is thought to have fled to India with support from top politicians and government officials.
Bangladesh police have contacted Interpol for help in tracking down Hossain, said Syed Nurul Islam, Narayanganj police chief.
“This is really unfortunate that law enforcers acted like professional killers being paid off by a criminal instead of being loyal to the law. They must be handed down exemplary punishment,” said Sakhawat Hossain, a lawyer from Narayanganj.
The RAB was created in 2004 as an elite anti-terror police unit made up of former army, navy, air force and border guard personnel. Initially, it was lauded for cracking down on militant groups, drugs peddlers and illegal arms dealers. However, it has faced growing accusations of involvement in the rising number of kidnappings and extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh in recent years.
The Dhaka-based rights group Ain-O-Salish has reported 53 kidnappings and disappearances in the past three months alone. In many cases fingers have pointed at the RAB.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged the government to disband the unit and prosecute its members for rights abuses including murder and enforced disappearances.