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Former lawmaker charged with murder of prominent Catholic in Bangladesh

DHAKA (UCAN): Abul Kalam Azad, a former member of parliament (MP) of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party, was charged, along with 12 others, with the murder in 2014 of Ovidio Marandy, a prominent indigenous Catholic, on April 9.
 
Marandy’s brother, Father Samson Marandy from the Diocese of Dinajpur, filed the case on behalf of his family who have been attempting to file a murder case for years.
 
Partha Bhadra, senior judicial magistrate, accepted the complaint and fixed June 12 as the first day of hearing.
 
At the time of his death, Marandy, then 32-years-old, was assistant commissioner of land in Govindaganj of Gaibandha district, in the north of Bangladesh.
 
He was found dead and his motorbike partly damaged on a village road in the area on 11 January 2014. He was reportedly driving to his place of work after spending a weekend at his home in neighbouring Naogaon district.
 
Local authorities declared his death a road accident and hastily buried his body. Six months later, a court ordered his body exhumed for a post-mortem examination. The subsequent report has not been made public but Jahidul Islam, officer in charge of Govindaganj police station, said that it supported the claim that the death was due to a road accident.
 
 “The police case also recorded it as an RTA (road traffic accident) and detectives also identified it as an accident,” Islam said.
 
However, police say they are still investigating the case.
 
The court complaint alleges that Azad plotted and killed Marandy because he resisted illegal activities allegedly being committed by him and his men.
 
Among the criminal activities that Azad was allegedly involved in, the family say, was the grabbing of land from local indigenous peoples.
 
“Azad conducted a reign of terror in the area for a long time,” Father Marandy said. “He grabbed and leased land held by poor people, including ethnic communities, plus government’s tax-free land,” he said.
 
Azad was also allegedly involved in the violent eviction of thousands of ethnic Santal Christians from disputed land in the area in November 2016.
 
The priest alleged that anyone who stood up to Azad put their lives at risk. “My brother clashed with him over the land grabbing issue, so Azad plotted and had him killed,” he said.
 
Azad then used his political position to make it look like a road accident and Marandy’s family was blocked from seeking justice through the courts, the priest alleged.
 
“He is less powerful now because he is no longer an MP. His party has denied him from candidacy in the last election, so we can now seek justice,” Father Marandy said. 
 
Azad became an MP in the 2014 national elections, but failed to secure his candidacy in last national election on 30 December 2018.
 
He has denied charges made against him and called them a “political conspiracy.”
 
On April 9, he told Bengali Daily Samakal, “It is political vengeance. Ovidio Marandy died in a road accident and a police probe is nearing completion supporting that outcome. I am surprised that the court has accepted a new case in this regard.” 
 
Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur, said the Church would support Marandy’s family in seeking justice.
 
 “The case filing has been delayed. He was an MP who was an influential politician, so it took time to gather the courage to sue him,” Bishop Tudu said. 
 
“The Church stands for justice, as did Ovidio Marandy,” he said.

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