Live Correspondent: A court here today sentenced to death to 19 people including former junior home minister Lutfuzzaman Babar and life imprisonment to another 19 including ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s fugitive son Tarique Rahman on August 21, 2004 grenade attack charge.
Judge Shahed Nuruddin of Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal pronounced the
judgment ordering Rahman to be exposed to prison term for life along with 18
others and sentenced 19 people including ex-junior minister Lutfuzzaman Babar
and ex-deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and several former army intelligence
officers to death penalty.
“They (who are sentenced to death) shall be hanged by neck until they are dead,” Nuruddin pronounced as 31 of 49 the accused were present on the dock while several others are on the run abroad to evade justice.
He found all the 49 guilty and sentenced to different jail terms to the rest 11 for the attack that killed 24 people and wounded some 500 others, crippling some of them for life.
The judge also made 12-point observations on the background, motive and consequences of the attack, mainly targeting incumbent Prime Minister and then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, who narrowly escaped the assault sustaining wounds. The two former junior ministers and two former military officers who headed two major intelligence agencies at that time of the grisly attack faced the trial in person.
“We are talking steps to return the fugitive convicts and expose them to justice,” home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told newsmen as the verdict came after a protracted trial for the gruesome attack on an opposition rally with military weapons.
The death penalty convicts are: Lutfuzzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, Mawlana Tajuddin, intelligence officials Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury and Brigadier General Abdur Rahim, transport operator Md Hanif, militants Mawlana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed Bhat, Abdul Malek, Shawkat Osman, Mohibullah, Abu Sayeed, Abul Kalam Azad, Jahangir Alam, Hafez Abu Taher, Hossain Ahammed Tamim, Moin Uddin Sheikh, Rafikul Islam, Md Uzzal. Those who are to walk to gallows were simultaneously fined Taka one lakh each.
Other then Rahman, the political figures who were handed down life imprisonments are – ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s the then political adviser Haris Chowdhury and former BNP lawmaker Qazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad.
The others to serve the life term prison are: militants Shahadat Ullah alias Jewel, Abdur Rouf, Sabbir Ahmed, Arif Hasan, Hafez Yahia, Abu Bokor, Ariful Islam, Mohibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Mohammad Iqbal, Liton, Shafikur Rahman, Abdul Hai and Ratul Ahmed Babu.
They all were fined Taka 50 thousand each in the case lodged under Explosive Substances Act. The court also sentenced Lutfuzzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, Mawlana Tajuddin, Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, Brigadier General
Abdur Rahim, Md Hanif, Mawlana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed Bhat, Abdul
Malek, Mawlana Shawkat Osman, Mohibullah, Mawalana Abu Sayeed, Abul Kalam
Azad, Md Jahangir Alam, Hafez Mawlana Abu Taher, Hossain Ahammed Tamim, Moin
Uddin Sheikh, Md Rafikul Islam and Md Uzzal to 20-year imprisonment and fined
Taka 50,000 each in case lodged under Explosive Substances Act.
Court in the same case, sentenced Tarique Rahman, Haris Chowdhury, Qazi
Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, Mufti Shafikur Rahman, Mufti Abdul
Hai, Shahadat Ullah, Mawlana Abdur Rouf, Mawlana Sabbir Ahmed, Arif Hasan,
Hafez Mawlana Yahia, Abu Bokor, Ariful Islam Arif, Mohibul Muttakin, Anisul
Mursalin, Md Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Md Iqbal, Mawlana Liton, and Ratul
Ahmed Babu to 20-year imprisonment and fined Taka 50,000 each.
“When the death sentence of the death-row-convicts will be executed, 20-
year-imprisonment will not be executed. Similarly, the sentences of life
imprisonment and 20-year imprisonment will run concurrently,” the court said.
The court sentenced former chiefs of police Md Ashraful Huda, Khoda Bokhsh
Chowdhury and Shahudul Haque, and DIG Khan Sayeed Hasan, SP (retd) Ruhul
Amin, ASP (retd) Abdur Rashid, ASP (retd) Munshi Atikur Rahman, Md Obaidur
Rahman Khan, Khaleda Zia’s nephew Saiful Islam Deuke, Major General ATM Amin,
to two-year-imprisonment and fined them Taka 50,000 each under section 218 of
the penal code. They have to suffer six-month imprisonment in default.
The court also sentenced former IGP Khoda Bokhsh Chowdhury, SP (retd)
Ruhul Amin, ASP (retd) Abdur Rashid and ASP (retd) Munshi Atikur Rahman to
three year imprisonment and fined them Taka 50,000 each under section 330 of
the penal code.
The sentencing under sections 218 and 330 will run concurrently. The judge started delivering the verdict at the jam-packed courtroom around 11.37 am and pronounced the punishment around 11.50am.
As soon as the judgment was delivered, police whisked off the convicts in the courtroom to prison vans outside to be brought back to suburban Kashimpur Central Jail under heavy security escorts. Persecution said they will express their formal reaction after through scrutiny of the verdict, while the defence rejected it.
Thirty-one accused from Kashimpur central jail were brought to the court amid high security this morning. Journalists, who went to cover the pronouncement of the verdict, were kept on the ground floor of the building, only allowed to enter the courtroom after the accused were taken inside.
The accused were kept at Bakshibazar temporary court building after bringing them here from Kashimpur and brought to the tribunal at 11.20am. Judge Shahed Nur Uddin entered the tribunal around 10.30 am, while the prosecutors appeared much earlier.
Assailants carried out the attack with military hardware “Arges grenades” on an anti-terrorism rally of the then main opposition Awami League while its president and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was visibly their prime target but she narrowly escaped the assault sustaining permanent hearing impairment.
Grenades were charged one by one towards the then opposition leader and incumbent premier Sheikh Hasina after finishing her speech as she stood on the makeshift stage on a truck. Her security personnel and the party leaders and activists including the
then Dhaka City mayor Mohammad Hanif, late Suranjit Sengupta, Mofazzal
Hossain Chowdhury Maya, created a human shield risking their lives and saved
the then opposition leader.
Around 5:40pm, after finishing her speech with saying her party’s signature “Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu”, Sheikh Hasina’s move to get off the truck was halted by photojournalists requesting a photo.
At that moment, a grenade was exploded right beside the stage, sending the crowd into a state of chaos. Immediately, the leaders on the truck made a human shield to protect her as at least 13 more grenades were thrown in the next two minutes.
A total of 24 AL leaders and workers including the then Mohila Awami League President and wife of late President Zillur Rahman, Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 500 others were injured in the monstrous attack.
Those other killed in the barbaric grenade attack included then opposition leader’s personal security guard Lance Corporal (retd) Mahbubur Rashid, Abul Kalam Azad, Rezina Begum, Nasir Uddin Sardar, Atique Sarkar, Abdul Kuddus Patwari, Aminul Islam Moazzem, Belal Hossain, Mamun Mridha, Ratan Shikdar, Liton Munshi, Hasina Mamtaz Reena, Sufia Begum, Rafiqul Islam (Ada Chacha), Mostaque Ahmed Sentu, Md Hanif, Abul Kashem, Zahed Ali, Momen Ali, M Shamsuddin and Ishaque Miah.
Prominent among those suffered serious injuries included Sheikh Hasina, Mohammad Hanif, Mofazzel Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Amir Hossain Amu, Abdur Razzak, Suranjit Sengupta, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Obaidul Quader, Advocate Sahara Khatun, Prof Abu Sayeed, and AFM Bahauddin Nasim.
Two separate cases, one for murder and another under Explosives Substances Act were filed on August 22, 2004, and the police on June 9, 2008 filed the charge sheet. The court on September 29, 2008, framed charges in the case.
Investigation Officer and also Additional Deputy Inspector General of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police on July 2, 2011, submitted a supplementary charge sheet before the court and the court on March 18, 2012, framed charges afresh after taking the new charge sheet into cognizance.
Fifty two people were held accused in the case while prosecution suggested an influential quarter of the then BNP regime including party’s senior vice- chairman Tarique Rahman masterminded its shocking plot engaging militant outfit HuJI and subsequently made desperate efforts to protect the assailants.
Three of the accused top HuJI leader Mufty Abdul Hannan, Sharif Shahedul Bipul and then Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed however, were by now executed after trial in other cases.
A total of 31 accused including two former ministers faced the trial in person while 18 including Tarique Rahman were tried in absentia as they are believed to be staying abroad. Tarique, now in London, and 17 others including several intelligence officials were earlier declared “absconding” as they were on the run to evade justice.
Eight suspects including three former police chiefs were on bail as the trial was underway while the court on September 18, 2018, scrapped their bail and ordered their confinement in jail with due facilities they deserved under law.
Investigators said the case visibly witnessed mainly three episodes of investigations while the first one was clearly led to create a smokescreen to protect the perpetrators during the BNP regime, prompting the subsequent caretaker government to launch a reinvestigation, which, however, appeared imperfect for failing to unmask some major masterminds.
“The final reinvestigation was crucial in digging up the truth,” investigation officer of the case and Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) additional deputy inspector general Abdul Kahar Akand recently told BSS.
He added: “We unmasked masterminds behind the attack, unearthed the supply channel of the grenades and the deliberately made flaws of particularly the first investigation to mislead the trial and negligence on the part of officials concerned.”
Akand said that the leftover grenades found at the attack scene at Bangabandhu Avenue were destroyed deliberately to hide evidence and divert the investigation course led by the then three CID police officers – assistant police superintendents (ASPs) Abdur Rashid and Munshi Atikur Rahman and police superintendent Ruhul Amin.
In the first phase of investigation during the BNP-Jamaat alliance government, the previous IOs clearly tended to protect the attack’s masterminds and executors, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) operatives, visibly knowing it well that this banned outfit previously made repeated attempts to kill the then opposition leader and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The first charge sheet of the case came during the interim government when IO and also CID ASP Fazlul Kabir said that the attack was carried out under Huji chief Mufti Abdul Hannan’s leadership while ‘some influential people’ were involved in it, without naming those influential people.
Akand said their investigation also revealed that the source of the Arges grenades used in the attack came from Pakistan while the assailants received the military hardware through former deputy minister of BNP regime Abdus Salam Pintu and his brother HuJI leader Maulana Tajuddin.
“Our investigation clearly came to the conclusion that the attack was planned and carried out to eliminate Awami League, killing its top leaders including Sheikh Hasina, who earlier appeared as assailants repeated target as well,” Akand said.
A Motijheel Police Station sub-inspector, Sharif Faruk Ahmed, filed the case over the attack while former CID ASP Abdur Rashid was assigned as CID’s first investigation officer, who tried to depict one Shoibal Saha Partho as the assailant, drawing sharp protests from Awami League, other parties and rights groups who smelled rat in the intension of the authority.
Authorities then replaced Rashid with Munshi Atik who then found one Jaj Mia as the assault culprit, an episode which later was dubbed by media as “Jaj Mia Drama”.
After final investigations Akand, submitted the supplementary charge sheet on July 2, 2011 naming 30 more suspects to be indicted in the case while they included several officers of DGFI and NSI, and three former investigation officers of the case.
A total of 14 witnesses gave statement under section 164, while 13 accused including executed HuJI leader Mufti Hannan gave confessional statements before the court.
Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) chief Mufty Abdul Hannan, whose banned outfit carried out the August 21, 20014 grenade attack, in his confessional statement said they proceeded with BNP’s acting chairman fugitive Tarique Rahman’s full support.
Dhaka, 10 October (Campuslive24.Com)//IM