Following the arrest of former Bangladesh high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur M Khairuzzaman by the local authorities in Malaysia, Dhaka is now looking for options to bring him back and revive the 1975 Jail Killing Case in which he was an accused.
"We hope to bring him back home soon. The home ministry and the law ministry will then jointly decide how the case will be revived or what the next steps will be," said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists at the foreign ministry, he said the Malaysian interior ministry had written to the Bangladesh High Commission on Wednesday, informing it that Khairuzzaman had been arrested for "violating immigration laws".
"Those arrested over Malaysian immigration issues are detained at deportation centres for deportation to their home countries. Khairuzzaman has also been detained at such a deportation centre," Shahriar added.
Malaysian police arrested the former diplomat on Wednesday from an apartment in the Selangor area of Ampang. Khairuzzaman is said to have been living in the country for more than a decade.
"The arrest was made according to procedures," Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin told the local media, adding it was due to "an offence committed and a request by his country."
After the Awami League-led government returned to power in 2009, the former army officer, who was given a diplomatic post during the BNP-led four-party coalition government, was recalled to Dhaka. Anticipating risks to himself if he returned, he reportedly obtained a UN Refugee Card in Kuala Lumpur and continued to stay there.
"As far as I know, he was acquitted of the jail killing charges. It could be because of the weakness of the investigation, it could be something else. It is under the jurisdiction of the court and so a matter for the judiciary, and as such I do not want to comment on it," he added.
"As far as I understand it, there is an opportunity to quiz him again and carry out an investigation into the case. The law ministry will be able to say that," the state minister said.
On 3 November 1975, four national leaders – Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M Mansur Ali and AHM Qamaruzzaman – were killed in Dhaka Central Jail.
The trial proceedings of the highly sensational murder case were suspended for the following 21 years.
The Awami League came to power in 1996 and revived the jail killing case. In 2004, three fugitives were sentenced to death. In 2008, the High Court upheld the capital punishment of one of them and acquitted two others of the charges.
Upon an appeal by the state, the Appellate Division in 2013 confirmed the death sentence of all three convicts. However, none of them could be executed as they were fugitives.
After the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, former army officer M Khairuzzaman was given an appointment at the foreign ministry.
In its 2001-2006 period in office, the BNP-Jamaat government sent him abroad with diplomatic responsibilities.
Earlier, after the Awami League came to power in 1996, Khairuzzaman, who was acting ambassador to the Philippines at the time, was called back to the country. The government arrested him on 24 September the same year and sent him on forced retirement.
When the BNP-Jamaat government was formed in 2001, Khairuzzaman was released on bail. On 4 May 2003, he was appointed director general at the foreign ministry.
The following year, a court acquitted him of the jail killing charges. He was appointed high commissioner to Malaysia in 2007 during the period of the then caretaker government.
Meanwhile, a Malaysian human rights activist shared a picture of the card provided to Khairuzzaman by the UNHCR on Twitter, where the validity of the card is mentioned to be till 2024.
"I don't know if he has a refugee card or not. But the Malaysian government has specifically stated in writing that, as I have said, he has been arrested for violating Malaysian immigration laws," said Shahriar Alam when his attention was drawn to the Twitter post.
"If we are confirmed that he holds a UN refugee card or something, we must (discuss) it so that in future UN activities reflect the laws of a member state," he added.
That is because the UN is not supposed to make a law or regulation where the interests of a member state are harmed or a legal process is hindered, he said. "It's not supposed to happen. We will look into the matter."
On whether Khairuzzaman is being brought back because of the jail killing case, the state minister said, "We will bring him back in the same process which we follow for any expatriate who commits a crime or if an expatriate has stayed in exile or has indulged in irregularities. It should be related to the case."
"The Malaysian government has told us that he has violated immigration laws and we are bringing back a citizen of Bangladesh. That's all," he added.