A man with a white beard, who wears a punjabi and looks like one of the killers of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was staying in the Mirpur area of the capital.
That was the only clue Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit had to go on with.
After several days of observation, the law enforcers finally arrested the person on Tuesday, and identified him as Captain (retd) Abdul Mazed – a key fugitive convict involved in the killing of Bangabandhu.
Responding to a query, CTTC's Deputy Commissioner Mahfuzur Rahman said, "We arrested him following the due process, and after confirming his identity."
Asked when and how Mazed arrived in Dhaka, Mahfuzur replied, "Mazed has not been interrogated as yet. Acting on a tip-off, a team of police's CTTC unit arrested him from the Mirpur area around 3:30am. Later, we produced him before a court."
Judge AM Zulfikar Hayat of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court then sent Mazed to Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj. No lawyer represented the convict in court, said Jafor Hossain, deputy commissioner of DMP's Prosecution Division.
Reports in the media at various times over the last four decades indicated that Mazed was hiding in the neighbouring country India.
Commenting on whether Mazed was extradited by India, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan in a video message on Tuesday said, "We found him in Bangladesh. Maybe fears over the coronavirus forced him to return."
The home minister also hailed the arrest as the "biggest gift of the Mujib Year" and thanked everyone involved in the process.
He continued, "Mazed didn't just participate in the assassination of Bangabandhu, but we know he also participated in the jail killing of the four national leaders.
"After Bangabandhu's murder, he worked at Bangabhaban and other places following the instructions of Ziaur Rahman. We now hope to execute his sentence as per the court's directive."
In another video message from his residence, Law Minister Anisul Huq on Tuesday said the formalities to execute the death sentence of Mazed had already begun.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen expressed hope to bring back the other five fugitive convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman within the Mujib Year.
In a message sent over the social media, the foreign minister said, "It is good news amid this coronavirus crisis."
Who is Mazed?
According to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Mazed directly participated in the killing of the country's founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
Hailing from Batamara village of Burhanuddin upazila in Bhola, he is one of the fugitive death row convicts wanted for the killings.
"He participated in the killing directly, and was present downstairs along with three other killers," the minister said.
After the brutal killing, he and another convicted killer Major Shahriar worked in the radio station with other army cohorts of the carnage.
Mazed had also worked along with the officials who staged the coup in Bangabhaban before fleeing the country, according to a press release issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Mazed, along with other convicted criminals of the carnage, went to Libya from Bangladesh via Bangkok by order of the then Army chief Ziaur Rahman. He stayed there for nearly three months with other officials who staged the coup.
The press release further reads, at that time, Zia rewarded those officials with transfers to Bangladesh embassies in different countries. As part of the reward, Mazed received a transfer order granted by Ziaur Rahman to the embassy in Senegal.
On March 26, 1980, Mazed was given a job in the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) by Ziaur Rahman's government. He retired from the army to join the BIWTC as a deputy secretary.
He was eventually promoted to secretary.
After that, Mazed applied for the director's (Youth Development) post at the Ministry of Youth Development, and got the job. From there, he was later transferred to the National Savings Directorate.
When the Awami League government started the proceedings of the killing of Bangabandhu in 1996, he went into hiding in fear of getting caught, read the press release.
The trial of Bangabandhu murder case started in 1997, 22 years after a group of disgruntled army officers assassinated him along with most of his family members in his Dhanmondi 32 residence.
The Appellate Division on November 19, 2009 upheld the death penalty of 12 convicted ex-army officers for the assassinations.
According to detective sources, Mazed's wife Saleha Begum is currently residing in the Cantonment Residential Area of Dhaka Cantonment. Abdul Mazed is the father of 4 daughters and one son.
What is next?
Death row convict Abdul Mazed is currently in jail following his arrest by the CTTC. He can now file a petition with the Appellate Division through jail authorities seeking exemption from the Bangabandhu murder case.
"In the petition, Mazed may deny his involvement in killing Bangabandhu and say that he did not know anything about him being convicted and sentenced to death by any court in this case," said Barrister Abdullah-Al-Mamun, a defence lawyer of Bangabandhu murder case.
He continued, "Abdul Mazed must mention logical reasons in the petition in support of his prayers. The Appellate Division may accept his petition and allow Mazed to file a leave to appeal petition with this court against the High Court verdict that had confirmed his death penalty along with other convicts in the case.
"Mazed can then file the leave to appeal petition explaining the long delay in doing so after the High Court verdict."
Barrister Mamun fought the legal battle for AKM Mohiuddin and Bazlul Huda, who were executed after being convicted in the Bangabandhu murder case.
The lawyer said if the apex court dismisses the petition of Mazed, he cannot move the leave to appeal petition challenging the High Court verdict against him, and then the authorities concerned can execute him.
"If the apex court allows Abdul Mazed to move a leave to appeal petition, the process for executing him will be halted. Then Mazed will move a leave to appeal petition before the same court. If the Supreme Court dismisses the leave to appeal petition, the authorities can execute him," the lawyer said.
Commenting on the matter, Supreme Court Bar Association President Advocate AM Aminuddin said, "According to the law Mazed is a convict, and cannot appeal against his death sentence because he was absconding for a long time, after the verdict was given."
After assuming power in 2009, ruling Awami League government executed five convicted killers of Bangabandhu on January 27, 2010.
The executed killers are – Syed Faruk Rahman, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan.
However, six more self-confessed killers – Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury, Abdul Mazed and Moslehuddin Khan – remained at large over the last four decades.
"The government is trying to bring back the remaining five fugitive killers soon, who are currently staying in different countries," said Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner (media) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
A brief glance of history
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally murdered, along with his wife and three sons, including 10-year-old Sheikh Russell, on August 15, 1975, while his two daughters, incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, survived the carnage as they were abroad.
No one was allowed to file a case immediately after the assassination and progress of the trial depended on the political dispensation in power.
The government of Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed, which was installed after the bloody military coup, passed an ordinance in November 1975, indemnifying the perpetrators and closing the door on the possibility of a trial for 21 years, from 1975 to 1996.
The Awami League government revoked the indemnity ordinance in 1996 and cleared the way for trial. Sheikh Mujib's personal assistant Muhitul Islam filed a case on October 2, 1996 with Dhanmondi Police Station against 24 people.
On November 8, 1998, Dhaka Sessions Judge, Golam Rasul, awarded death sentences to 15 of the 20 accused.
Four of the convicts – Major (retd) Bazlul Huda, Lt Col (dismissed) Syed Faruk Rahman, Lt Col (retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan and Lt Col (retd) Mohiuddin Ahmed – appealed before the High Court against the verdict.
On December 14, 2000, the High Court gave a split verdict in the case – Justice Md Ruhul Amin upheld death sentences of 10 of the convicts, but Justice ABM Khairul Haque retained death sentences of all the 15.
On April 30, 2001 Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim of a third High Court bench upheld death sentences of 12 and acquitted three. Among the 12 death row convicts, four appealed against their sentence in the Appellate Division the same year.
Judges' embarrassment in the Appellate Division further delayed completion of the trial of this historic case. The case was not heard for a single day during the BNP's five-year tenure (2001-2006) because of "lack of judges" in the Appellate Division.
A three-member bench was finally formed in the Supreme Court to hear the leave-to-appeal petitions after the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government took office.
The bench allowed the condemned convicts to file regular appeals against the High Court verdict.
In the meantime, another death row convict, retired Lt Col (lancer), AKM Mohiuddin, made an appeal from jail after he was deported from the United States on June 18, 2008.
But hearing of their regular appeals was ensured only after the present Awami League-led alliance government appointed a few judges to the Supreme Court and set up a five-member special bench to hear the appeals.
The hearing started on October 5, 2009. After 29 days of hearing, the apex court, on November 19, 2009, delivered the much-awaited final verdict that rejected the appeals of the killers and upheld the High Court verdict of death sentences for the 12.
Following the Supreme Court verdict, termed by many as "the best historic judgment for the nation," the killers filed review petitions for commutation of their sentences.
After completion of all legal procedures, the Awami League-led government executed five self-confessed killers – all former army officials – in 2010, 35 years after the killing.
One absconding convict, Aziz Pasha, died in exile in Zimbabwe, while the remaining six self-confessed convicts remained at large.
Among the six, Abdul Mazed has been arrested. The absconding killers are Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury and Moslehuddin Khan.