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Relative of slain family says deportee is killer

Venice man was one of the shooters, says a grandson of Bangladeshi leader killed in 1975.

March 31, 2007|Ashley Surdin | Times Staff Writer

A Venice man whom friends and family are trying to save from execution in Bangladesh is a "cold-blooded killer" who murdered a 10-year-old boy during a military coup in 1975, a relative of the slain child said Friday.

Mohiuddin A.K.M. Ahmed, 60, was tried in absentia in 1996, convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for his role in the assassination of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh and seven family members. U.S. courts ordered Ahmed deported to face his penalty.

Ahmed, then an army major, says he manned a roadblock a mile from the president's home, but thought the leader would be arrested peacefully. "Myself and others believed that the orders we received were lawful," Ahmed said in a written statement. "At no time was I, or my troops, involved in any violence."

But Sajeeb Wazed, the slain leader's grandson, said Ahmed was one of the "actual shooters" who murdered the family in their Dhaka home.

"This wasn't just a political assassination, this was a gruesome, gruesome murder," Wazed, 35, said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

Wazed said that staff members present during the rampage said that Ahmed was among a group of soldiers who shot the family's security guards and barged into the home, now a museum whose walls remain marked with bloodstains and bullet holes.

The soldiers shot his grandfather on the stairway and pulled family members from their beds and fired at them, Wazed said. Among the dead, who were later buried in unmarked graves, were his pregnant aunt, grandmother and three uncles, including Russell, a 10-year-old boy, he said.

Wazed said staff members who were there told him that when Russell began crying and begging for his life, one of the officers took him downstairs to hide. But after another officer commented, "He's going to be like a snake that grows up and kills us," Ahmed and another officer went down and shot the child, Wazed said.

"Not only did Mohiuddin participate, he killed a child in cold blood," Wazed said.

Ahmed's son, Rouben Mohiuddin, said that while it was "very regrettable" that innocent people died during the coup, his "father was over a mile away from the president's home when the shooting began."

"I don't know what really happened inside the president's home that night because I was not there. Nor was my father, who is innocent of this crime."

Ahmed's lawyer, Joseph Sandoval, and the family are trying to have Ahmed sent to a third country. Their drive gained momentum when a federal appeals court said Thursday it would not enforce Ahmed's deportation order until after April 16.

"We feel relieved that we are going to have a little bit more time," said Mohiuddin.

As of Friday, Ahmed was being held at Terminal Island detention center in San Pedro. He and his wife have lived for 10 years in Los Angeles, where he worked as a translator for the phone company.

At the time of the coup, Wazed, then 4, was on vacation in Germany with his younger sister, father and 27-year-old mother, Sheikh Hasina Wajed -- one of two daughters who escaped the bloody political purge. Wazed said returning Ahmed to Bangladesh would help his family and his country heal; blocking or diverting his deportation would be a "severe travesty of justice."

"Having had my own family brutally murdered, I can understand how no one wants their loved ones to die. But what about my 10-year-old uncle? What about justice for him? What about justice for my pregnant aunt? What about justice for my grandmother?" he said.

"What did they ever do to anyone, to be dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and shot?"

ashley.surdin@latimes.com

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