A Cox's Bazar Court will announce the verdict in Sinha murder case on Monday, around one and a half years after the retired army major was shot dead by police in the southeast coast city.
Sinha's sister Sharmin Shahria Ferdous, who is also the plaintiff of the case, demanded exemplary punishment of the 15 accused – several ranking former cops of Cox's Bazar and their informants.
She hoped the verdict – to be delivered 218 days after the trial began – to be a milestone in ending extrajudicial killing by law enforcers in Bangladesh.
On 31 July 2020, Major (retd) Sinha Rashed Khan was gunned down at a police check post on the Cox's Bazar marine drive while he was driving towards the capital. On that night, police arrested Sinha's co-traveller Shahadul Islam Sefat and another teammate Shipra Debnath from a local resort, and filed a drug case against them.
The trio had been in the tourist city for months to film a travel documentary. Investigation later showed Sinha was murdered as he found out local police's involvement in narcotics smuggling and other crimes in Cox's Bazar.
The killing prompted a countrywide protest and outcry as the then army and police chiefs rushed to Cox's Bazar to hold an unprecedented joint press conference.
Following the incident, extrajudicial killings received unprecedented public attention and the number of extrajudicial killing incidents dropped, according to the British foreign ministry's human rights report on Bangladesh in July 2020.
On the eve of the verdict, Sinha's co-traveller Sefat said, "May no one die in police crossfire anymore."
Family wants capital punishment
Sinha murder case plaintiff Sharmin Shahria said they want capital punishment of the then Teknaf OC Pradeep and inspector Liakat as they shot and confirmed the death of her brother.
"We hope the court will hand down punishment to others according to their role in the murder," she said.
"Let the verdict prove again that no one is above the law," the plaintiff noted, adding the family would be present in the courtroom on Monday.
Expecting the highest punishment, public prosecutor Faridul Alam said they proved the allegations against 15 accused successfully.
However, defence lawyer Rana Das Gupta said there was a huge discrepancy between the claim of the plaintiff, case statement, evidence and the charge sheet. "We told the court that OC Pradeep and others were framed due to their fight against yaba in Cox's Bazar."
The retired Major was shot dead by police at the APBn 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 the trio.
In one of the cases, police said Sinha barred 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, Liakat Ali and OC Pradeep surrendered to court, while seven others were arrested by RAB.
The accused are: Former OC of Teknaf Police Station Pradeep Kumar Das, former inspector of Baharchhara Police Investigation Centre Liakat Ali, former sub-inspector Nanda Dulal Rakshit, former constables Safanur Karim, Kamal Hossain, Abdullah Al-Mamun and Mohammad Mostafa, former APBn sub-inspector Mohammad Shahjahan, former constable Mohammad Rajib and Mohammad Abdullah, former Teknaf police constable Rubel Sharma, former assistant sub-inspector Sagar Deb, police informants Nurul Amin, Nezam Uddin and Mohammad Ayaz.
Of them, 12 accused except Pradeep and Rubel Sharma gave confessional statements to court. At the end of the investigation on December 13 last year, the investigation officer of the case, the then Assistant Superintendent of Police RAB-15. Khairul Islam filed charges against 15 people in the court. The indictment states that it was a premeditated murder.
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.
Sinha's filming crew Sefat said he hopes the verdict will help Cox's Bazar locals retrieve trust on police, despite the irreversible mental damages and trauma he had to endure due to police action.
With narcotics and pornography charges, Sefat and Shipra landed in jail in police case after Sinha killing. Though they were released on bail later, Sefat said he still cannot lead a normal life.
"I cannot put into words the trauma I went through for at least a year after that night. I even could not get out of the house for several months as I would shudder hearing any siren."
"I faced interrogation everywhere as soon as I walked out of jail. Everybody looked like we (me and Shipra) were the criminals. I had to go to Cox's Bazar at least three or four times. Simply put, my life turned upside down after Sinha murder," Sifat said.
"Police had not acted in a professional manner from the very beginning. They charged us with a drug case to divert the incident. Even the High Court had to rope in to stop their cyberbullying against Shipra."
"It was beyond my wildest imagination that one of us would be killed during the Cox's Bazar tour. Besides, there will be made-up cases," Sefat cried.
"I could have been killed that day too, maybe I survived by luck. During my stay at Cox's Bazar jail, I found too many OC Pradeep's victims. Teknaf was a hellscape for them," Sefat recalled.