The Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal 1 is scheduled for today to pronounce verdict in two cases filed for the grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka on August 21, 2004 that left 22 AL leaders and activists killed and scores injured.
The police have taken stringent security measures in and around the makeshift courtroom near the old Dhaka Central Jail and law enforcers have been kept on alert to maintain law and order in Dhaka and elsewhere.
Considering the gravity of the verdict, a meeting was held at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police headquarters on Tuesday to maintain the law and order.
An official said that additional force would be deployed and movement around the makeshift courtroom would be restricted for the day.
‘The police are kept on alert to keep law and order situation normal,’ police headquarters’ assistant inspector general (media) Md Sohel Rana told New Age on Tuesday.
The security measures have been taken considering the gravity of the verdict as the 49 accused include acting Bangladesh Nationalist Party acting chairman Tarique Rahman, his cousin, former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and former intelligence and police chiefs, police officials said.
The ruling Awami League central committee in a letter to district, upazila and union units early this week asked party activists to remain alert over the verdict.
Awami League leaders and activists, including ministers, continued their campaigns demanding capital punishment for Tarique and others branding Tarique as the mastermind in different programmes and social media.
‘We want justice,’ AL general secretary Obaidul Quader, also the road transport and bridges minster, said at a programme in Dhaka on Tuesday, alleging that Tarique masterminded the grenade attack.
‘I can swear that none of BNP leaders, including Tarique Rahman, Abdus Salam Pintu and Lutfuzzaman Babar, was involved in the grenade attack,’ BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a commemoration meeting at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity on Tuesday.
He said that the government falsely implicated them in the cases with ill political intention to destroy the party.
On September 18, tribunal judge Shahed Nuruddin set today for the pronouncement of verdict.
Additional public prosecutor for the two cases Musharraf Hossain Kajol said that they would appear before the court in time today but it depended on the judge when the verdict would be pronounced.
‘We want capital punishment for each of the 49 accused,’ he said.
A number of defence counsel told New Age that they would appear in the court today with the hope for justice.
The tribunal on September 18 concluded the hearing of final arguments of the
prosecution and defence counsel for 49 accused, including BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, now in London, and his cousin retired navy officer Saiful Islam Duke.
Tarique, Lutfozzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, political secretary to prime minister during Khaleda’s 2001-2006 tenure Abul Harris Chowdhury, former BNP lawmaker Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, BNP-backed ward commissioner Arifur Rahman Arif and Hanif Enterprise owner Muhammad Hanif, among others, were charged with conspiracy of the grenade attack.
The then National Security Intelligence director general Razzaqul Haider Chowdhury, who was the director counter intelligence bureau of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence during the attack, retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim, who was the NSI director general during the grenade attack, former DGFI director ATM Amin, who was later promoted to major general, and the then DGFI general staff officer-1 Saiful Islam Joarder, also the brother-in-law of Saiful Islam Duke, among others, are also among the accused.
Six police officials—former inspectors general Ashraful Huda, Shahidul Haque and Khoda Box Chowdhury, the case supervising officer former special superintendent of Criminal Investigation Department Ruhul Amin, and case investigators and former assistant superintendents of police Abdur Rashid and Munshi Atikur Rahman, and the then deputy commissioners Khan Sayeed Hasan and Obaidur Rahman—were charged with negligence in performing duties.
Apart from the politicians, military and police officials, a number reported of former Afghan war warriors and suspected extremists were also charged with murder and other offences for grenade the attack.
The tribunal examined 225 of the 511 prosecution witnesses and many of them were serving or retired police, military and intelligence officials.
During the trial, the defence counsel alleged that ‘the plotters’ were yet to be identified instead the opposition leaders were implicated ‘intentionally’.
The prosecution, however, denied the allegation claiming that the final investigation found the connections of Tarique and his fellows.
Another defence counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain argued that most of the accused were implicated in reference to the reported confession made by accused Mufti Abdul Hannan Munshi.
‘Mufti Hannan’s brother, sister and brother-in-law were picked up for 12 months, and then Mufti Hannan made the statement,’ he said, adding that Mufti Hannan made two reported confessions.
Additional public prosecutor Musharraf Hossain Kajol had argued that there was no second confession rather it was the continuation of the first one.
During the trial, at least three Supreme Court lawyers defending accused in the cases stopped attending the trial to avoid further troubles, defence lawyers alleged.
Defence counsel Parvez Hossain and Muhammad Ali languished in jail for 40 days in 2015, they alleged.
Twenty-four people, including late president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 200 were injured in the grenade attack on the rally of the then main opposition Bangladesh Awami League in front of its central office at Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004.
Awami League president Sheikh Hasina, now the prime minister, escaped the attack but the explosions caused her hearing damage.
Two cases—one for the murder and the other under the Explosive Substances Act—were filed for the grenade attack while a judicial inquiry was also conducted.
The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice Joynul Abedin, formed on August 22, 2004, submitted its report to the home ministry on October 2, 2004 with 14 short- and seven long-term recommendations.
‘The commission has not been able to identify the actual culprits,’ the report said, ‘but it has nevertheless been able to identify the masterminds behind the incident.’
The government had also sought help from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Interpol but their findings had never been made public.
The course for the investigation into, and the story about, the grenade attack had been changed time and again with the changes in the state power.
The Criminal Investigation Department had arrested 20 people and allegedly forced Muhammad Jamal alias George Miah, Abul Hasem Rana and Shafiqul Islam to confess to the attack in 2005.
In the statement, George Miah, of Noakhali, reportedly said that a team of 14 took part in the attack being instructed by top crime suspects Tanvirul Islam Joy and Subrata Bain, reportedly hiding in India, and the 14, including George, was paid Tk 5,000 each for the attack.
The investigation into the cases took a new turn after the military-controlled interim regime took over the power on January 11, 2007 with Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami operations commander Mufti Abdul Hannan, arrested on October 1, 2005 in the Ramna Batamul blast case, making a statement before a court on November 1, 2007.
On June 9, 2008, CID pressed charges against former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, Mufti Abdul Hannan and 20 others in the cases.
After recording testimonies of 61 prosecution witnesses, the tribunal on August 3, 2009 ordered further investigation into the cases following petitions filed by the prosecution after the Awami League assumed power.
On July 3, 2011, CID submitted supplementary charge sheets against 30 more people including Tarique, Babar, Harris Chowdhury and the then Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.
Until CID special superintendent Abdul Kahar Akand submitted the third charge sheet, four other investigators had investigated the cases and two of them were made accused in the cases.
On March 18, 2012, the tribunal charged the 30, in addition to the 22 people indicted earlier, in the cases.
Of the 52 accused, 31 are in jail.
Mojaheed was dropped from the trial as he was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail on November 22, 2015 on charge of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 War for Independence.
Reported Afghan war warrior Abdul Hannan Munshi and Sharif Shahedul Alam Bipul were also dropped from the trial following their executions on April 12, 2017 on charge of killing three people and injuring former British high commissioner in Bangladesh and dozen others in Sylhet.
The rest 18 accused, including Tarique, and Tajuddin, now in South Africa, are being tried in their absence.
Tarique was represented by state defence lawyer AKM Akter Hossain, also central member of Bangladesh Awami Ainjibi Parishad while Chaitanya Chandra Halder, also staff correspondent of Daily Star, represented Mohammad Hanif.
During the testimony in March 2014, 74th prosecution witness, Mosaddeque Billah, told the tribunal the Rapid Action Battalion had kept him detained for one month and a half in their headquarters without producing before any magistrate.
Muhammad Jalal, known as George Miah, who was made accused and later made witness in the cases, said on Tuesday that he feared that he would be killed on the road once the trial completed.
News Courtesy: www.newagebd.net