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Sinha verdict: the crimes and punishment

District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Ismail delivered the highly-anticipated verdict in a packed courtroom on Monday.

The two key suspects in the case, sacked police officers Pradip Kumar Das and Liakat Ali, have both been given capital punishment.

In addition, three other law enforcers along with three police sources have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Meanwhile, another four policemen and three members of the Armed Police Battalion were acquitted.

In a 300-page judgment, Judge Ismail laid out the reasoning behind the conviction of each defendant.

Sinha was shot dead at an Armed Police Battalion (APBn) checkpoint on Cox’s Bazar’s Marine Drive on Jul 31, 2020.

The 36-year old was a member of the Special Security Force tasked with guarding the prime minister. He had gone into early retirement to pursue his personal interests.

He was filming a travel documentary in Cox’s Bazar along with three others.

After Sinha’s death, his sister Sharmin Shahria Ferdous started a case against nine policemen, including Pradip and Liakat.

Later, formal charges were pressed against 15 people, including 12 policemen, by the case’s investigation officer Md Khairul Islam.

An investigation into the incident also revealed how Pradip, the then chief of Teknaf police, would stage gunfights and terrorise people for money under the guise of a war on drugs.

In the case dossier, Senior Assistant Police Superintendent Khairul Islam gave a vivid description of what had happened on Jul 31, 2020, at the APBn checkpoint on the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive.

According to the case documents, Sinha and his companions learned had learned about Pradip’s misdeeds. They even interviewed some people tortured by Pradip.

Sinha and his team members Shipra Debnath and Shahadul Islam Sefat spoke to Pradip about the issue. Anticipating further trouble, Pradip started looking for a chance to ‘take out’ Sinha and his team. It was his plan that led to Sinha’s death at the check post.

After Sinha was killed, Cox’s Bazar Police claimed he had ‘prevented them from searching him and his car’ and ‘drew his pistol’, forcing the officer at the checkpoint to shoot him.

The trial opened after the 15 suspects were indicted by Judge Ismail on Jun 27, 2021, and ended in 29 working days as the court heard 65 testimonies, including nine eyewitness accounts.

Before the verdict, the defendants were brought to Cox’s Bazar District Court under tight security from the district’s Central Jail. They were produced in the court at 2 pm.

The judge then began reading out the verdict around 2:24 pm.

According to Judge Ismail, one of the most puzzling aspects of the case was why Major Sinha’s car had been stopped again after the APBn personnel initially let him pass through with “a salute”.

“I have been trying to find out why this unfortunate murder took place at the APBn checkpoint. The answer to a question I have repeatedly tried to find through the testimonies in court is why was Major Sinha’s car stopped again after the APBn members had let him go with a salute? Why was he shot?”

The outcome could have been different had the APBn personnel properly carried out their responsibilities, the judge said.

“Why couldn’t the APBn members stop the killing after they let him through with a salute? Their responsibility was to protect the checkpost and maybe this tragedy would not have happened if they had done so.”

Citing the testimony of APBn’s SI Shahjahan, the judge said Liakat lay in wait under a tree and carried out the shooting in a matter of seconds before anyone could even realise what had happened.

Later, Judge Ismail announced the sentences around 4:20pm.

THE OFFENCES

Liakat and Pradip were found guilty of offences under sections 302, 201, 109, 114, 120 and 34 of the Penal Code for conspiracy and premeditated murder.

The court found that Liakat had conspired with Pradip to murder Sinha and accordingly shot him dead. After the incident, they took Sinha to a nearby hospital to confirm that he was dead.

In a bid to distort the facts and destroy the evidence, Liakat subsequently started two fabricated cases against Major Sinha and his co-worker Sefat, the judge said.

The suspects in the murder of Major Sinha Md Rashed Khan are brought to the court premises in Cox’s Bazar by prison van ahead of the verdict on Monday, Jan 31, 2022. Photo: Jasim Mahmud

Pradip was the mastermind behind the criminal conspiracy to kill Sinha, according to Judge Ismail. He also kicked Sinha in the chest, breaking two ribs, before seeking to ensure he was dead by strangling him.

Pradip held off on taking Sinha to the hospital while destroying the evidence in the case to escape liability. He also committed a punishable offence by filing two fabricated cases, according to the judge.

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At the hearing, Pradip’s lawyers argued had gone to the scene “much later” on the night of Jul 31.

In his judgment, Judge Ismail said, “Before leaving the police station, OC Pradip recorded a general diary (GD) and then filed another one after he returned. In the first GD, he mentioned that shots were being fired at the Shamlapur checkpoint.

“Witnesses in this case and even the accused have testified about the involvement of OC Pradip Kumar Das in the incident.”

On policemen Nanda Dulal Rakkhit, Sagar Deb and Rubel Sharma, who received life imprisonment, the judge said they abetted the murder by complying with orders of their superiors despite knowing that it involved the commission of a “crime with malicious intent”.

They later destroyed evidence at the scene and drew up false charges against Sinha and Sefat to save themselves from any liability.

Ayaz Uddin, Nurul Amin and Nizam Uddin, three residents of Marishbunia, were also complicit in the murder as they had tried to instigate a lynch mob against Sinha and Sefat, whom they branded as ‘robbers’, the judge said.

Security personnel formed a seven-level security perimeter at the court premises in Cox’s Bazar ahead of the verdict in the Major Sinha Md Rashed Khan murder case on Monday, Jan 31, 2022. Photo: Jasim Mahmud

After failing in their efforts to incite an attack on Sinha and Sefat, they then informed the other conspirators about the whereabouts of the two and later cooperated as witnesses in a fabricated drug-related case.

The seven others were exonerated as the charges against them could not be proved by the prosecution.

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