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Sheikh Mujib's body lying on the staircase of his home on August 15, 1975, after his assassination

The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, part of a military coup, took place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of junior army officers invaded Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's residence with tanks. At the time of his assassination, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was serving as the self-declared life-long president of Bangladeshmarker.


Following the independence of Bangladesh in December 1971, Mujib was released from custody in Pakistanmarker. He became the Prime Minister and later President of the newly formed state. He soon established a system of one-party rule, banned all the newspapers except for government publications, and declared himself life-long president through a constitutional amendment in early 1975. His declaration of one party rule was opposed by many political opponents. Corruption started to spread during those initial years of Bangladeshi independence. Other major challenges which Mujibur Rahman had to face included the humanitarian disaster (roads, banks, markets, houses and schools were destroyed) that was left behind after the 1971 war, which culminated in a devastating famine in 1974. The main charges against Mujib included nepotism and misgovernance. Public discontent increased as people's purchasing power plummeted and there was no sign of any improvement.


Syed Faruque Rahman, Abdur Rashid, Sharful Haque Dalim, all majors in the Bangladesh Army and veterans of Mukti Bahini, hatched a conspiracy, the standard account of which is chronicled in Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood by Anthony Mascarenhas. Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed, an Awami League cabinet minister under Mujib rule, agreed to take over the Presidency. Journalist Lawrence Lifschultz paints an alternative picture of the conspiracy, implicating Mustaque and the CIA as participants. It is alleged that the chief of the army General Shafiullah and defence intelligence were unaware of the conspiracy. However, Mujib relied more on Rakshi Bahini, a militia, rather than the army, for his ultimate security.


In the early morning of August 15, 1975, the conspirators were divided into three groups. One group attacked Mujib's house in road number 32, Dhanmondimarker Residential Area in the Dhaka city. Mujib was killed on the stairs, and all the members of his family were also killed except for his two daughters, who were in West Germanymarker at the time. Two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, Mujib's nephew and influential leader of the Awami League, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, Mujib's brother-in-law, and a minister of the Government. Three months later, four major leaders of the Awami League, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali, Syed Nazrul Islam and A H M Kamruzzaman were arrested and jailed (they would later be murdered in jail on November 4, 1975).


Dictated by the coup masterminds, Khondaker Mustaq Ahmed assumed the presidency and the participating army officers became the de facto leaders of the country. They were later toppled by yet another coup led by General Khaled Mosharraf on November 3, 1975. Mosharraf himself was killed in a counter coup on November 7, which installed General Ziaur Rahman in power. In the meantime Faruque Rahman, Rashid, and the other army officers had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. They were exiled to Libya and other countries, and were given several diplomatic posts in Bangladeshi missions abroad. Faruque later returned and founded the Bangladesh Freedom Party.


The military decided not to court-martial the military officials who masterminded and participated in the coup. No case was registered with the police, by relatives of Mujib or his party men, either. In fact, the conspirators could not be tried in court of law on the charge of assassination because of the Indemnity Act passed by the government under President Khondaker Mustaq Ahmed. However, when Awami League, led by Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, won the election in 1996, it repealed the Act. The Bangabandhu murder trial commenced, and Faruque and some of other coup leaders were arrested. Rashid, however, escaped arrest as he was reportedly in Libya.

The trial ended on November 8, 1998, in death sentences for 15 out of 20 accused of the assassination. However, the sentences were yet to be carried out as five of the convicts sought permission to file appeals. The decision remained pending due to a shortage of judges in the appellate division of the supreme court since August 2001. On June 18, 2007, one of the conspirators who had been sentenced to death, Mohiuddin Ahmed, was extradited to Bangladesh from the United States. On August 7, 2007, the murder case hearings resumed after six years.

The appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh gave its verdict on November 19, 2009, after a five-member special bench spent 29 days hearing the petition filed by the death-row convicts. The appeal of the convicts was rejected and the death sentence was upheld. Before the verdict, approximately 12,000 extra policemen were deployed to guard strategic buildings, including the Supreme Court, to prevent any attempt to disrupt the proceedings by the convicted men's supporters. The men's supporters have been blamed by the government for a grenade attack on one of the prosecution lawyers in October 2009, although no one has been charged yet.

See also


  1. Memoir written in 2005 by Lawrence Lifschultz
  2. Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, by Lawrence Lifschultz, London: Zed Press, 1979
  3. Bangabandhu murder case hearing resumes today after 6 years – The Daily Star; August 07, 2007
  4. Security tightened around SC – The Daily Star, November 19, 2009
  5. Mujib murder case appeals verdict today

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