Attacks on Media
Getting Away With Murder11 Feb, 2017
Despite assurances of speedy justice, investigation into the brutal murder of journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi continues to languish, says Saleem Samad
Justice is long overdue in the sensational murder of Sagar Sarowar, news editor of private network Maasranga TV, and his wife Meherun Runi, senior reporter of another private channel ATN Bangla. Investigators remain clueless about the perpetrators even after five years. Sleuths are still groping in the dark over the murder of the journalist couple who were stabbed to death in the bedroom of their apartment in the capital Dhaka on February 11, 2012. Sagar received 28 stab wounds and Runi five before they breathed their last, according to the investigators.
The killings triggered widespread outrage in the media community. Soon after the murders, former home minister Shahara Khatun declared that the killer would be arrested within 48 hours. Nine months after Khatun’s assurance, the incumbent home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir claimed a breakthrough at a press conference after the arrest of a few persons. But nothing substantive has emerged so far.
The Home Ministry claimed credit for cracking the case, producing a list of eight suspects. Those named were: Tanvir Rahman, whom police identified as family friend of Sagar and Runi, one of the two guards to the residence Polash Rudra Paul, and Rofiqul Islam, Bokul Miah, Masum Mintu, Kamrul Hasan Arun and M. Sayeed – all identified by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as members of a gang of professional criminals.
Neither the journalists’ leaders nor the family members of the victim buy the police version. Rumours of love affairs, sex scandals, corporate buy over of one of the couple abounded, as did conspiracy theories. However, not enough evidence surfaced to support any of these theories.
The investigators apart from shifting the case from one investigative body to another and from time to time giving hollow promises, have not been able to produce tangible results.
Journalist leaders, specially from the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Dhaka Union of Journalists and Dhaka Reporters Unity expressed their deep anguish over the inability of the authorities to bring the perpetrators to face justice.
The probe agency, the elite RAB, has been submitting progress reports on the investigation every month following a court directive, repeatedly seeking additional time. Though the RAB says it is making every effort to crack the case, the plaintiff, Runi’s brother Nowsher Alam Roman does not see light in the end of the tunnel to resolve the murder mystery.
After the sensational murder, Runi’s brother filed the case with Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police. The case was then handed over to the Detective Branch. After DB admitted its failure before a court to resolve the case, 62 days after the incident, the RAB was asked to take over the investigation.
A few days later, former Inspector General of Police Hasam Mahmud Khandker in a press briefing at the Police Headquarters claimed that there was a significant progress in the investigation into the case. Later the police headquarters continued to remain silent over the issue.
Responding to a question about the progress of the murder probe by a reporter of private news portal bdnews24.com, RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan said, “It’s not that all murder mysteries are solved fast. Sagar-Runi murder is a sensitive case. That’s why we are taking more time to solve it.” When asked how long it would take to resolve the mystery, he did not hesitate to say, “Years upon years will go like this”.
Initially, RAB said the DNA samples gathered from these materials matched the profiles of two persons. Mysteriously nothing on the matter was followed up later.
In 2014, a DNA test at a US laboratory which was based on the evidence collected from the scene of the crime confirmed the presence of two suspects at the apartment of Sagar-Runi during the gruesome murder, but the elite force is yet to be able to detect the two suspects.
The RAB director (legal and media wing) Commander Mufti Mahmood Khan told private news agency United News of Bangladesh the same story again and again that the investigation has been given highest priority.
Assisting Director (investigation) of the RAB headquarters Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mohiuddin Ahmed, who is the fifth investigation officer of the case, said five suspects are in custody in connection with the brutal killing, and the final report is expected to be submitted soon. When? He could not say.
The delay does not correspond with the assurances of progress in the investigation that emerge from time to time from the authorities concerned. Meanwhile, the real perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity for two reasons. Firstly, flexing muscle with money power and secondly, walking along the corridors of power rubbing shoulders with rogue politicians and government officials.
Saleem Samad, is an Ashoka Fellow, award winning investigative reporter and Bangladesh correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He was arrested and charged with sedition in November 2002. Later he went into exile and lived in Canada for six years. Back in Bangladesh, he is Special Correspondent of The Asian Age, published from Dhaka.