Suspended Teknaf police OC Pradeep Kumar Das and inspector Liaquat Ali have been sentenced to death for killing retired army Major Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan – a murder case that brought extrajudicial killings by law enforcers to the fore.
"It was a premeditated and cold-blooded homicide," said a Cox's Bazar judge in a packed courtroom while pronouncing the verdict on Monday.
Of a total 15 accused, the court handed six suspended policemen and their informants life imprisonment, while acquitted seven former cops.
"Liaquat shot Sinha dead and staged a gunfight to cover up the crime," said the court, adding, "Pradeep has committed crime by executing the assassination plan, by stomping wounded Sinha to ensure his death, by destroying the murder evidence and filing cases against the victims."
Police gunned down Sinha in July 2020 on Cox's Bazar marine drive while he was driving to the capital. After the killing, cops arrested two of his teammates on narcotics charges on that night.
Pradeep-Liaquat duo initially branded the killing as a shootout with police on the Teknaf-Cox's Bazar Marine Drive – a 80km seaside scenic patch that turned notorious for gunfights at night.
According to the finding of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) who investigated the murder, as many as 150 crossfires took place on the road between 2018 and 2020 while Pradeep was the police chief of the Myanmar bordering region.
"He used to torture innocent people in the name of a war on drugs. Those who failed to meet his demands for money were killed in crossfire in staged gunfights with law enforcers," said RAB.
The elite battalion findings, which was also in the judgement, suggest Sinha was taken down as he stumbled upon the cop-led extortion, killing and drug syndicate during his month-long stay in Cox's Bazar to film a travel documentary. However, Sinha's killing blew the lid off Pradeep's chequered past.
Families of crossfire victims flocked the courtyard from the morning, formed human chain and chanted slogans seeking the capital punishment of the former OC. The 15 accused were carried on the court premises by prison vans around 2pm.
The judge entered the courtroom around 2:25pm and started reading out the roles of the convicts in the murder from the 300-page judgement.
As soon as the verdict was pronounced, the convicts started shouting. Ex-sub inspector Nanda Dulal Rakshit broke down into tears after getting a life term in prison. But the key accused Pradeep – who was in a grey sweater and navy blue trousers – sat motionless.
"We'll appeal as the judgement frustrates us," Mohiuddin Khan, a member of the defence counsel, told journalists on the court premises.
Expressing partial satisfaction over the judgement, Public Prosecutor Faridul Alam said they would file a review petition with the court seeking a revision of the acquittal of seven suspects.
Sinha murder verdict came out 18 mounts after the killing, while the trial took only 33 working days – a record for Cox's Bazar district court. Security measures at the court area centering the verdict were also remarkable as police and plainclothes adopted a multi-layered security from the morning.
Six who got life in prison are former Teknaf police constable Rubel Sharma, former sub-inspector Nanda Dulal Rakshit, former assistant sub-inspector Sagar Deb, police informants Nurul Amin, Nezam Uddin and Mohammad Ayaz.
The seven acquitted suspects are former assistant sub-inspector Liton Mia, constables Safanur Karim, Kamal Hossain, Abdullah Al-Mamun and Mohammad Mostafa, former APBn sub-inspector Mohammad Shahjahan, former constable Mohammad Rajib and Mohammad Abdullah.
The retired major was shot dead by police at the Armed Police Battalion of police check-post at Shamlapur in Baharchhara on the night of 31 July 2020 on the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive. Subsequently, police filed three cases against slain Sinha, his film crew Shahadul Islam Sefat and Shipra Debnath.
In one of the cases, police said Sinha tried to prevent on-duty cops while they moved to search him. Police fired as the retired major pulled out his gun.
On 5 August 2020, Sinha's sister, however, filed a murder case with a Cox's Bazar court accusing nine police men. The court tasked the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for the investigation.
Meanwhile, Liaquat Ali and OC Pradeep surrendered to court, while the remaining suspects were arrested by RAB.
On 13 December 2020, RAB submitted the chargesheet against 15 individuals, terming the killing a "premeditated murder".
On 27 June last year, Cox's Bazar District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Ismail framed charges in the case and ordered the trial to begin.
On 12 January this year, the judge fixed 31 January for the verdict.