Dhaka: Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in 'a plot' in August 1975 in which Ziaur Rahman was 'passively involved', alleged US journalist and writer Lawrence Lifschultz.

Lifschultz, who returned to Bangladesh after 35 years, told a court here on Monday that Ziaur Rahman, the military strongman who went on to become the President and died in 1981, was in the shadow of the whole episode of August 15, 1975 because he was one of the main players of the game'.

Replying to a question from the High Court, he said Ziaur Rahman “could have stopped the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman because he (Zia) knew of the plot”, a daily reported.

Revered as father of the nation, Mujib was killed along with most of his family members in a military-led coup Aug 15, 1975.

While Mujib's elder daughter Sheikh Hasina is the Prime Minister, Ziaur Rahman's widow Khaleda Zia is the opposition leader. Khaleda has served as the Prime Minister for two terms.

Zia was 'a complicated man. He was brutal and was the main beneficiary of (Mujib's) assassination', Lifschultz said, adding that Zia, himself a freedom fighter, was responsible for killing many freedom fighters among his fellow army officers.

Lifschultz said Zia's role in Mujib's killing had become clear from the conversations with Col Farooq Rahman and Col Abdur Rashid, convicted killers of Mujib, and from the book 'Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood' written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist who was among the first to support Bangladesh's freedom movement in 1971.

The American journalist, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is here to depose before the court that is hearing a case pertaining to the trial and execution of Col Abu Taher Lifschultz, who partly covered Taher's trial by a military court in 1976, was expelled.  

“One man, Ziaur Rahman, decided, on his own, to take another's life. He then asked a group of about 50 officers to endorse his decision,” Lifschultz told the court.

The US journalist said he had tried to go inside the so-called court but was not allowed.