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2005-03-22 13:36:00
Embassy Dhaka
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 001313 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2010

REF: A. DHAKA 0810

B. DHAKA 0917

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reason 1.4 d.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 001313


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2010

REF: A. DHAKA 0810

B. DHAKA 0917

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reason 1.4 d.

1. (C) Summary. Late March 22 the BDG passed us the
confession statements and the inter-agency commission's
report on the Kibria attack to pave the way for A/Legatt's
meeting with the suspects, perhaps as early as next week.
Police say they have completed the murder portion of the case
but still want FBI help in tracing the origins of the grenade
used in the attack. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On March 21, A/Legatt Trung Vu, P/E counselor, RSO,
and conoff met for two hours at the Ministry of Home Affairs
with Joint Secretary Mohammed Muhsin, DIG (Crime) ABM Bazlur
Rahman, DIG (CID) Mohammed Shamsul Islam, Sylhet DIG AKM
Mahfuzul Haque, MHA Legal Adviser Khan Saifur Rahman, and MFA
Americas DG Shameem Ahsan. The Sylhet DIG, who chaired the
inter-agency commission that probed the Kibria killing, and
the legal adviser were new and energetic participants in
this, our third meeting with MHA on possible FBI involvement
in the Kibria case.


3. (C) The BDG officials stated:

-- Ten persons, all from Habiganj and most of them BNP
affiliated, conceived, planned, and executed the
assassination of Awami League (AL) leader Shah Kibria to
enhance BNP parliamentary prospects in this strong Awami
League area. Eight of the suspects are in custody, including
the alleged ringleader, Habiganj district BNP vice-president
AKM Abdul Quaiyum, and the alleged thrower of the grenade,
Joinal Abedin Mumin. Four of the arrestees, including Mumin,
have made confessions to the magistrate.

-- Mumin was promised the taka equivalent of about 830
dollars for his role. He received 15,000 taka in advance but
was arrested before he could collect the balance. He quickly
confessed due to his acute emotional stress resulting from
the fact that the casualties from the grenade he threw
included his elder brother and brother in law.

-- There is no question of a coerced confession since the

magistrate meets alone with the suspect and asks him four
times whether the confession is truthful and complete.

-- There is no estimate on the total cost of the operation.

-- When police froze Quaiyum's bank accounts, they discovered
large sums he had apparently collected on behalf of a local
cultural organization. Police also found posters Quaiyum had
already printed for his campaign for parliament.

-- Quaiyum has not been brought to a magistrate because, as a
former magistrate himself, he knows the dire implications of
a confession. (Note: On March 20, the High Court, in
response to a habeas corpus write filed by Quaiyum's wife,
instructed the BDG to explain in two weeks why Quaiyum should
not be produced before the court to determine the legality of
his detention. Mrs. Quaiyum charged that neither she nor
Quaiyum's lawyer have had access to him since his arrest.
DIG Haque told us she had spoken to her husband by phone soon
after his arrest.)

-- A MHA committee will decide where the case will be tried,
but they expect that a "sensational" case like this will be
referred to a speedy tribunal. Bail in cases like this is

-- Police have talked to a total of 45 witnesses, including
16 primary.

-- The murder investigation is closed, but the investigation
of the grenade used in the attack continues.

-- Since the two absconding suspects, involved with the
planning of the attack, may have fled the country, police
will pursue an Interpol arrest warrant.

4. (C) Asked about reports that a Dhaka-based "mastermind"
might be behind the attack, DIG Haque said "so far" the
mastermind is Quaiyum. None of the suspects, he said, has
indicated any involvement beyond Quaiyum. Muhsin downplayed
mastermind speculation as a media fancy. Asked if police had
found any indication of AL involvement in the attack, Haque
replied, "No." Muhsin interjected that police had not
pursued that angle because of their emphasis on finding the

5. (SBU) Asma Kibria, widow of the slain AL leader, has again
rejected the police investigation of her husband's killers as
incomplete. "I didn't see the investigation report," she
told reporters on March 20. "The chargesheet on the basis of
that investigation must be complete and partial." She
reiterated her call for an FBI investigation to unravel the
"true story" about who actually instigated the attack.

Next Steps

6. (C) The FBI help now desired, the BDG officials said, is
tracing the origin of the Arges grenade used in the Kibria
attack, in part because, they noted, Arges grenades have been
used in several recent incidents in Bangladesh. They
confirmed that they have no serial or lot number of the
grenade, only recovered fragments. Asked if it was true that
the Bangladesh army used Arges grenades, they asserted that
they understood, from press reports, that the army had
dropped the Arges from its inventory in the early 1990s and
had destroyed remaining stockpiles. Police have not,
however, raised this matter with the army.

7. (C) P/E counselor noted that the Ambassador and Home
Secretary Farooq had agreed last week that Agent Vu and an

interpreter (the Bangla-speaking conoff present at the
meeting) could interview the suspects in Habiganj. To
prepare for the interviews, it would be helpful if the BDG
could provide Agent Vu with copies of the confessions, any
other case documents, and the report recently submitted by
DIG Haque's commission. For the sake of time, hand-written
Bangla documents were fine. Muhsin, clearly uncomfortable
with the request, ended up calling a brief recess to consult
with his colleagues. When they returned, he accepted in
principle both the interviews and the request for

8. (C) After considerable back and forth among Muhsin and the
forward-leaning legal adviser, it was agreed that:

-- Vu's interviews would have the status of a regular prison
visit but no other legal standing. Any information of value
to emerge would be referred to the police for appropriate
follow-up. After the suspects are transferred from police
remand to Habiganj prison on March 23, Vu's visit would
require the concurrence of prison officials and perhaps the

-- The requested documents could be provided immediately on
an informal or confidential basis. Getting court certified
copies of the documents would take weeks.

-- At issue are four two-page confessions and a 20-page
commission report, plus about 100 pages of annexes. There
are no written records of the interrogation.

-- Muhsin would be in touch with us March 22 to advise
whether, based on consultation with seniors, he'd be
available to provide the documents informally.

BDG Delivers

9. (C) On March 22, Foreign Policy Adviser Reaz Rahman called
the Ambassador to reiterate PM Zia's assurances that Agent Vu
would have full BDG cooperation, including access to all
reports and people and support for his travel to Habiganj to
interview suspects. The BDG's only request, he said, was
that any subsequent press releases on the FBI role in the
case would be developed jointly by those persons
participating in bilateral meetings. The Ambassador agreed,
adding that the Embassy had issued its own release on March
21 (before the meeting at MHA) to correct inaccurate reports
on the FBI's role appearing in the local media.

10. (C) MHA Joint Secretary Muhsin subsequently called P/E
counselor to invite him to collect the requested documents
later at MHA. When P/E counselor met with Muhsin that
evening to collect the documents, Muhsin stressed the
confidentiality of the documents and his hope that the media

would not learn that they had been passed to the USG.


11. (C) We will translate and digest the case documents as
soon as possible to pave the way for Agent Vu's travel to
Habiganj, perhaps as early as next week. Meeting with
Quaiyum would be significant since his refusal thus far to
confess and his incommunicado status suggest to some he has
knowledge of senior BNP leadership involvement in the attack.
Cynics, like the Kibria family, might argue that if the BDG
actually allows Vu to meet with Quaiyum, it would mean that
he and the BDG have come to an understanding. In either
event, the turnaround in BDG responsiveness is striking.
Compared to our prior meetings, this time BDG officials --
especially the new participants -- were informative and

12. (C) By local standards, the police appear to have done
some solid work in quickly identifying and building a case
against Kibria's killers, which underscores our view that the
police can solve such cases when told to do so. That they
consider the case closed, and thereby reject the notion of a
VIP mastermind, is not surprising. As is customary in
Bangladesh, confessions in this case are central to the
investigation and prosecution of suspects. According to the
legal adviser, there is no legal provision for recanting or
modifying a confession and any attempt by a defendant to do
so is viewed as duplicity.