Is the Wait
September 2, the courtroom at the Second Special Tribunal for
Prevention of Women and Children Repression in old Dhaka was
packed with people-- black gown-clad lawyers, well-wishers,
friends, strangers and finally a grief-stricken family. They
were waiting for the judgement on the Shazneen murder case,
a tragedy that has shaken a nation, a crime so gruesome and
brutal that the only acceptable justice is death to those who
committed it. For the family it has been an excruciating wait
of over five years during which each member had to relive the
horror again and again through a long drawn out legal process.
In addition they have had to face all kinds of nasty accusations
and allusions cooked up by the lawyers of the accused. All they
bore in the hope that justice would finally be served. That
the killers would pay for their cold blooded acts, for taking
away the life of a spirited, innocent child who had so much
to live for.
Shazneen Tasneem Rahman, daughter of Latifur Rahman, chairman
of Transcom Limited and Shahnaz Rahman, was raped and brutally
murdered in her bedroom while her parents and dozens of people
were in the house.
everyone stood up as justice Kazi Rahmatullah arrived, the level
of tension in the room shot up dramatically and there was total
silence as the judge read out important parts of the 122 page
court transcript which explained what had been established through
the deliberations of the court. Finally he read out the verdict:
under the 1995 Women and Children Repression Prevention Act
6 (2), Shahidul Islam alias Shahid, for raping and murdering
the victim, was sentenced to death by hanging. The other five
accused namely Syed Sajjad Moinuddin Hasan alias Hasan, who
masterminded the crime, Badal, his assistant, Saniram Mondol,
a carpenter, and the two maids Parveen and Minu were also handed
the death sentence for their involvement in the murder. Finally
the moment had come. After five years of agonising waiting,
members of Shazneen's family broke down in tears when the verdict
was read out.
verdict had been reached after evaluating the circumstantial
evidence of the case, as the very eyewitnesses of the crime
were the perpetrators and abettors. It was also based on confessional
statements of the accused and statements of the 22 prosecution
witnesses which included immediate family members of Shazneen,
close relatives, household staff and friends of the family who
had been present on the night of the murder. Shahid committed
the actual rape and stabbed the victim but it was obvious from
the nature of the wounds that he did not kill her alone and
that he was helped by more than one person. When her body was
found there was a big hole on the left side of her neck which
could not have been done with a kitchen knife that had later
been discovered with Shahid's finger prints. This mortal wound
was more likely caused by a long, rod-like object. Later another
murder weapon, a carpenter's chisel was found on the roof of
the servants' bathroom. The other mortal wound was on her back.
Shazneen's body had 25 marks of injury including bruises in
the private parts which, according to the autopsy report, proved
that she had been raped before being killed.
Hasan, Shaniram and Shahid being taken away after the verdict.
April 1 Syed Sajjad Moinuddin Hasan alias Hasan was in Latifur
Rahman's house as it had been a common occurrence for the last
two years. Hasan, a contractor with a diploma in engineering,
had been in charge of renovating the Rahmans' residence. He
had managed to win the trust of the Rahmans thus his presence
was very normal for the family members. On April 1, Hasan came
into Shazneen's room saying that he had come to change a defective
mirror in her bathroom and asked Shazneen to show it to him.
Shazneen, in all innocence went make her pay. The next day Shazneen
went with her sisters and their families to the family tea estate
Marina for a short holiday. It was here that she told her sisters
and her brothers-in- law, whom she was very close to, about
the April 1 incident. Shazneen's parents had gone to Shillong
on April 3 and so it was decided that they would expose Hasan
as soon as they came back. On April 5, Hasan showed Badal, his
assistant, Shahid and Shaniram Mondol, where Shazneen's bedroom
was located. The same day Hasan and Badal paid Shahid, Humayan
Kabir (now dead) and maids Parvin and Minu to commit the crime.
Shazneen's parents came back from Shillong on April 18. But
soon after her mother became ill and her father was preoccupied
with business matters. Shazneen and her sisters and brothers-in-law
decided they would tell the parents on Friday April 24, a holiday
when the family would get together as was customary.
the incident, the number of times Shazneen saw Hasan she would
insult him in her anger. Even on that fateful day April 23 Shazneen
who was with her sister Shezi, at around 5p.m. encountered Hasan
on one of the balconies of the house and became agitated telling
him that he would be exposed the next day. Hasan knew that soon
he would certainly lose his contract, his reputation and even
be arrested for attempting to molest a minor girl. Hasan had
already laid out a fool proof plan to murder her. He had already
appointed Shahid, the cook's helper, to rape and kill Shazneen
with the help of the security guard Humayan who later died in
jail, Shaniram, the carpenter and two maids Parveen and Minu
(who had come to the house about two months ago) who had direct
access to Shazneen's room. The 23 rd was chosen as Hasan knew
as far back as in March, that the Rahman's were having a dinner
for some close friends and so would be busy with the guests.
The time chosen was between 8p.m. and 10:15p.m. when dinner
was in full swing and when the main household staff and the
hosts would be upstairs in the dining room. Shazneen would be
alone in her room downstairs.
wing where Shazneen and her parents lived was out of bounds
for male servants so Shahid had to take the help of the maids
to unlock the entrance to that wing and help him get inside.
In the middle of the corridor outside Shazneen's room was a
small exit to the garden. It was this exit through which the
the evening on April 23, the house contractor's supervisor,
Badal, had been sent by Hasan apparently to check if all the
security lights were working. Mysteriously, the sodium lights
were not working and Badal announced that there was water in
the lines. The next day, the lights worked perfectly and an
electrician and engineer were certain that there had been no
water in the lines. The lights had been switched off on April
Initially after the murder, Parvin, the maid said that she first
saw Shahid fleeing Shazneen's room with a knife in hand. In
other statements, Parvin has said she saw a man sitting on the
victim's body, in another that Shahid had been sitting on the
body and in yet another, that she had seen nothing at all.
and Parvin, who helped in the murder.
too has given conflicting statements. When Shahid was caught
by the Chittagong police, he confessed to the murder although
he denied having raped the victim but later admitted that he
the body was discovered family members started searching the
house in the hope of finding the murderers. Shaniram, the chief
carpenter appointed by Hasan, was found apparently sleeping
in the tin shed near the downstairs corridor in spite of such
a lot of commotion in the house. Humayan was found in the bathroom
long after his shift had ended. Hasan himself did not turn up
at the house even though Latifur Rahman's cousin Atiqur Rahman
Masum had called his house and informed his wife what had happened.
His wife had said Hasan was sleeping. Strangely Hasan did not
even attend Shazneen's Namaaze Janaza in spite of being so close
to the family before the incident.
a maid employed by Shazneen's eldest sister who often took her
employer's sons to the house, told police that Minu and Parveen
had told her that on the 23 rd Hasan would take revenge on Shazneen,
with the help of Badal, Shahid, Shaniram and Humayan, for insulting
him. Later Sufia saw Hasan talking to Parveen and Minu, at the
time pregnant, in the ironing room. Hasan threatened Sufia that
she would face dire consequences if she breathed a word of the
April 23 plan to anyone. Sufia also mentioned that she had asked
Parvin how they would get away with such a crime without getting
caught by the police. Parvin at that time remarked that women
are never caught. Minu had come to the house only about two
months ago and it was during the Rahmans' absence that Parvin
had been brought to the house by Minu as instructed by Hasan.
was Humayan, the security guard who actually revealed the details
of the crime. About a month after the murder in May, Humayan
was brought to the house by the police and he helped to find
the second murder weapon, a carpenter's sharp chisel, on the
roof of the servants' bathroom. He was then taken to Shazneen's
room where he gave details on how she had been raped and killed
by the accused. He said that some of them ran out of the door
in the veranda. On April 25 police recovered the kitchen knife
used by Shahid during the murder, near the wall where the carpenters
had left pieces of glass and other things.
April 28, Shahid was brought to the Rahman household and this
is where he gave details on how he and Humayan, Parveen, Minu
and Shaniram helped him to rape and murder Shazneen. In September
1998, Shahid was again brought to the murder scene where he
described the murder again and also added that when he had attacked
Shazneen she had kicked him off. This was when Parveen grabbed
her hair and held her hands while Humayan stabbed her with a
chisel. The three then pulled Shazneen
the bathroom and it was here that Hasan grabbed her with ill
intentions. Shazneen pushed him back and warned him that she
would tell her father and that he would punish him for this.
He quickly left the room although he was determined to down
from the bed. Shahid then raped her, later running out through
the verandah exit, hiding the knife on the roof of a tin shed
where Shaniram used to stay, and escaping by climbing over a
wall and going through the Australian High Commission compound.
Hasan was waiting in a microbus and asked Shahid whether the
job had been completed. Shahid replied that everything had been
done according to plan.
September 2 verdict has provided some solace not only to the
family members but to the general public as well. The crime
was cold blooded, calculated and unbelievably viciously executed.
The people involved knew Shazneen. They had all been benefited
by her parents' generosity. Shazneen was a shy, affectionate
child who did not have enemies. Her only fault was to have protested
against sexual assault.
are still however, many unanswered questions. Under the law
of the land an accused person who cannot afford to hire a lawyer
will be entitled to a government appointed attorney to represent
him or her, free of cost. Except for Hasan, all the accused
are poor but they all refused state-appointed lawyers and hired
their own lawyers. So who is paying for their lawyers? It is
also mysterious why the lawyer representing Hasan is also representing
Badal, Shaniram, Parveen and Minu? Are they not independent
defendants who claim to be not guilty?
ordeal has not ended. The accused will most likely appeal to
the higher courts. Shazneen's family prays that the September
2 verdict will hold when it goes to the High Court and Supreme
Court. For her loved ones the shock and horror will never really
go away and the pain of her absence is permanent. Many of those
who did not know her will mourn the senseless killing that snatched
a beautiful girl from her family and friends. But at least the
exemplary punishment to those who mercilessly ended her life
will give some consolation and hope to a society lacerated by
the loss of too many innocents to brutal, cold-blooded crimes.
In a comment to a television reporter, Shazneen's father said
that if this judgement helps to deter such crimes for even 10
days and save the lives of a few children, it will be a huge