It has been sixteen years since policemen Noor-e-Alam and Mohammad Alamgir were murdered, but their families' long wait for justice is still not over.
With little progress in the trial over the years, the possibility of the court reaching a verdict anytime soon looks far removed.
The prime suspect in the case, infamous terrorist Ali Akbar Chowdhury alias Zeesan, was arrested in Dubai on 4 October 2019. The transnational police organisation Interpol says he has been charged with murder and possession of explosives.
Zeesan was reportedly controlling criminal activities in Bangladesh from the Middle East where he has been living with an Indian passport.
Inspector Noor-e-Alam and Sub-Inspector Mohammad Alamgir of the detective branch (DB) of police, were killed in a gunfight with terrorists at Hotel Sunrise in the capital's Malibagh area on May 14, 2003. A case was subsequently filed at the Ramna police station.
One and a half years later, in November 2004, DB Inspector Noor Mohammad submitted a charge sheet accusing eight people in the murder case. The eight people are Zeesan Ahmed alias Zeesan from Cumilla, his brother Shamim Ahmed alias Pichchi Shameem, Ikhtiar Kabir from Narayanganj, Ilias alias Tepa from Munshiganj, Nasir Uddin alias Swapan from Munshiganj, Mehbub Chowdhury Shanto alias Rudra from Joypurhat, Jasim Uddin alias Jasu from Khilgaon in Dhaka, Bashar alias Jamai Bashar from Shariatpur.
Of the people charged, Swapan, Rudra, Jasu and Jamai Bashar had been arrested by the police, but later managed to come out of jail on bail. The other four, including prime suspect Zeesan and his brother Shamim, have been absconding from the beginning.
Three years later, in 2007, the court indicted the eight suspects and started trial. The investigation officer of the case had 75 prosecution witnesses, but the court heard the testimonies of only 12 prosecution witness in 16 years. At least one third of the witnesses need to testify for the court to give a verdict.
Public Prosecutor (PP) Abdullah Abu told The Business Standard that the case is going slow because the police have been negligent about producing witnesses at court. "The 4 suspects who were in jail managed to get bail on the pretext that the trial has become uncertain because the police have not been able to arrest any of the 4 absconding suspects in these 16 years," he added.
He also blamed the then home minister for the delay: "The killing of two police officers is undoubtedly a major event, but the government at that time did not take it seriously."
Meanwhile, Shahjahan Khan, the lawyer of the suspect Swapan, said, "The suspect named Rudra told the police that a Swapan from Old Dhaka was involved in the murder, however, my client Nasir Uddin Swapan is not that Swapan."
"On the charge sheet, the investigation officer omitted 'Nasir Uddin' from his name and referred to him as 'Swapan' only," he claimed.
The case statement says that the plaintiff of the case, DB inspector GM Enamul Haque, claimed that Inspector Nurul Alam Sikder had received information about a gang's plan to target a hotel in the city's Malibagh area on May 14, 2003 to steal money and other valuables from there.
To thwart the terrorists' plan, a detective branch team comprising of Yunus Ali, Inspector Alamgir Hossain, Rafiqul Islam and Mofazzal Hossain, constables Md Motahar Hossain, Fazlur Rahman, Amirul Islam and Mostafa Kamal rented two rooms – room no. 13 and 14 – in the same hotel that day, and were waiting there for the gang to attack.
At around 7:30pm in the evening, a group of 7-8 armed terrorists started to come down the stairs from the second floor of the hotel. The case statement adds that the detective branch team fired at the terrorists, whereupon the terrorists fired back and fled the hotel. The policemen chased them, but the terrorists managed to escape after reaching a busy road in Rampura.
On returning to the hotel, the police team found that two of their members, Inspector Nurul Alam and Sub-Inspector Alamgir Hossain, had been shot. They rushed them to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where they succumbed to injuries.