Family members of 13 army officers executed under a controversial court martial in 1981 observed their 29th death anniversary yesterday as a recently released documentary sparked fresh debates about the procedures and motive of the trial.
Family sources said they observed the death anniversaries of the 13 officers, mostly 1971 veterans, in a low profile with milad mahfils and prayers as the day coincided with Eid holidays.
Twelve of the officers were hanged for their alleged involvement in the May 30 killing of president Ziaur Rahman after a hasty trial in a military court that completed the trial process only in 18 days.
The 13th officer was hanged two years later as he was being treated for bullet wounds he had received during the May 30 incident in Chittagong.
The army prosecutors, who were appointed to defend the suspected officers and whose ranks ranged between lieutenants and brigadier generals, later called it a 'farcical trial' as they were denied the minimal opportunity to defend them in line with Army Act.
The four-episode and 10-hour long documentary titled 'Bloodbath in the Military of Bangladesh (1975-1981)', released in July this year dedicating the last two parts to the 1981 incident, came up with several evidence indicating innocence of the 13 officers.
The documentary, mainly based on interviews of the military people, including investigators and prosecutors, found that the accused were denied their rights for self-defence while the "motivated" investigators used brute force on them to obtain statements they had wanted ahead of and during the trial.
The documentary, produced by journalist Anwar Kabir, was shown as a reference recently before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court during a hearing on a presidential reference on a different issue.
The senior most officer to walk to the gallows was Brig Gen Mohsin Uddin Ahmed and the junior most was Lt Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan Khan, who was only 23 at that time.
The other officers were Col Nawajesh Uddin, Col M Abdur Rashid, Lt Col AYM Mahfuzur Rahman, Lt Col M Delwar Hossain, Lt Col Shah Md Fazle Hossain, Maj AZ Giashuddin Ahmed, Maj Rawshan Yazdani Bhuiyan, Maj Kazi Mominul Haque, Maj M Mojibur Rahman, Capt Mohammad Abdus Sattar and Capt Jamil Haque.
According to documents and references, the officers were arrested in between June 1 and 3 in 1981 while the court martial chaired by Maj Gen Abdur Rahman began at Chittagong Central Jail on July 10 and ended on July 28.