Dhaka, Bangladesh
Babar among 19 to hang Tarique jailed for life

Babar among 19 to hang Tarique jailed for life

News Desk Acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman has been jailed for life while former state minister Lutfozzaman Babar is among 19 persons sentenced to death for the August 21st grenade-attack carnage. In Wednesday's verdict delivered by a special court, 18 others also were handed down life sentence, along with Tarique, the acting chairperson of the former ruling party. Another 11 of the total 40 surviving accused have been sentenced to different terms of imprisonment. The total number of accused was 52 under a supplementary charge sheet produced after reinvestigation into the twin-cases involving murders and use of explosives in the grenade attack on an Awami League peace rally on the aforesaid day in 2004 that left 24 people dead and around 300 wounded. But three have already been executed in other cases. In an instant reaction, the BNP rejected the verdicts as the party termed the case proceedings implicating its leaders through supplementary charge sheet a manifestation of "political vendetta" of the Awami League government. "It's a dictated verdict. We reject this verdict," BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told journalists. The party and its associate bodies threw weeklong protest programmes-and there were reports of some demonstrations in different parts of the country. However, there were no reports of major incidents as the government put the law-enforcement agencies on high alert and ruling-party activists also took to the streets as a counteractive measure, media reports said. Several government ministers and ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader expressed guarded reaction appreciating the court's judgment and dissenting from lesser penalty for who they called 'mastermind'. "Not unhappy, not fully satisfied either," said Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, in an instant reaction to repor-ters as the verdicts came from the judge, Shahed Nuruddin, of Dhaka's Speedy Trial Court. "We would have been happy if there had been the highest punishment, capital punishment for the planner and mastermind," he said, naming Tarique Rahman. Home Minister Asaduzz-aman Khan Kamal appreciated the verdicts, saying: "We think justly served." As 18 of the convicts are absconding, the home minister said the fugitives would be brought back to execute the judgments. Law Minister Anisul Haque said Tarique deserved capital punishment but "we are happy that justice has been done at long last." He said the state side would file appeal on receipt of papers for "enhancement" of penalties. The defence counsel appeared aggrieved and said they would file appeal with the higher court for justice. "We expected that the BNP leaders would be acquitted," said advocate Sanaullah Mia. The capital was placed under a security blanket as both the parties in the grenade-attack twin-cases are major political parties who rule Bangladesh by turns. Also involved are top officials of different security agencies of that time. Former state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar is among 19 persons sentenced to death for their roles in the 2004 grenade attack. As many, including Tarique Rahman, son of the then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, and slain President Ziaur Rahman, have been sentenced to jail for life. The prosecution story says the terrible grenade attack targeted Sheikh Hasina, who was the opposition leader at the time and now prime minister of Bangladesh. Hasina survived with a partial hearing loss. Reports from agencies, including UNB and bdnews24.com, said a series of grenades exploded as Hasina was stepping off a truck, which was used as a dais for the rally on Bangabandhu Avenue. Among those handed down capital punishment is former Deputy Minister for Education Abdus Salam Pintu while BNP chief Khaleda Zia's former political secretary Harris Chowdhury was sentenced to life in prison. Eleven government officials accused in the case received different jail terms. Besides, 11 others were awarded different terms of jail in the sensational cases, said Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal. The others awarded death penalty are then DGFI Director Major-General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, then NSI Brigadier-General (retd) Abdur Rahim, Mohammad Hanif, Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed, Maulana Shawkat Osman, Mahibullah alias Mafizur Rahman, Maulana Abu Taher, Maulana Abu Sayeed, Mohammad Jahangir Alam, Abul Kalam Azad, Mainuddin Sheikh alias Abu Zandal, Ujjal alias Ratan, Hossain Ahmed Tanim, Sheikh Abdus Salam and Abdul Malek. All of the condemned convicts were also fined Tk 1 lakh each. The other lifers are Shahadat Ullah alias Jewel, Maulana Abdur Rauf, Sabbir Ahmed, Tarik Hasan Sumon, Hafez Maulana Yeahia, Abu Bakkar, Ariful Islam, Mahibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Iqbal, Liton, then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's political secretary Abul Harris Chowdhury, Shah Moazzem Hossain Kaikobad, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hye and Ratul Ahmed. They were also fined Tk 50,000 each, and in case of failure to pay the penalty, they will have to serve one more year in jail. The tribunal sentenced former IGPs Ashraful Huda and Khuda Baksh Chowdhury, Shahidul Haque, Lt Commander (retd) Saiful Islam Duke, Lt Colonel (retd) Saiful Islam Zoardar, Major General (retd) ATM Amin, ex-DIG Khan Sayeed Hasan, former police supers Obaidur Rahman Khan and Ruhul Amin, ASPs Abdur Rashid and Musnhi Atiqur Rahman to two years' imprisonment. They were also fined Tk 50,000 each, in default, to suffer six months more in jail. Of the convicts, Tarique Rahman, Mursalin, Mahibul, Khalil, Jahangir, Iqbal, Liton, then Prime Minister Political Harris Chowdhury, Kaikobad, Shafiqur, Abdul Hye, Ratul, Saiful Islam, ATM Amin and Sayeed Hasan were tried in absentia. Talking to reporters after the verdict, advocate Kajal said they also sought death penalty for Tarique Rahman in the cases. "We'll appeal against the judgment with the higher court," he said. Defence lawyer Sanaullah Mia said they were disappointed at the verdict. He claimed that Tarique Rahman is innocent. Replying to a query, Sanaullah said the verdict against Tarique will be challenged once he returns home. Of the charge-sheeted accused, Jamaat secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, and militant leaders Mufti Abdul Hannan and Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul were dropped from the cases as they had been executed after convictions in other cases. Thirty-one accused, including Babar and Salam, were in the dock. They were brought from Gazipur jail before the delivery of the verdict. Additional law enforcers were deployed at important points of the capital while members of the Rapid Action Battalion, Bomb Disposal unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and Armed Police Battalion remained posted in and around the court at Nazimuddin Road. Besides, the movement of pedestrians on and around the road was restricted. Earlier on September 18, the tribunal fixed October 10 to pronounce its verdict in the two cases after both the prosecution and the defence had completed their arguments. Closing their arguments, the prosecution sought the highest punishment to all the accused, including Tarique, saying they were able to prove all the charges beyond reasonable doubt. They also said Tarique masterminded the attack and helped militants in order to kill Sheikh Hasina by throwing the grenades to make Awami League leaderless. But the defence lawyers sought acquittal of their clients as they said the prosecution failed to present substantial evidence to prove the charges. They also claimed that Tarique, who has been staying in London since 2008, was implicated in the cases with a political motive. Earlier, the court set September 17 and 18 for hearing the closing arguments after hearing the prosecution's rebuttal arguments against defence arguments on September 12. On October 23 last, the prosecution started placing arguments before the tribunal in connection with the two cases filed over the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004. On August 21, 2004, the grisly grenade attack was carried out on an anti-terrorism rally arranged by Awami League at Bangabandhu Avenue during the BNP-Jamaat alliance's rule, aiming to kill then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. At least 24 leaders and activists, including AL's women affairs secretary and late President ZillurRahman's wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and 300 others injured in the grenade attack. Although Sheikh Hasina fortunately escaped the attack unhurt, her hearing was affected badly. At least 13 grenades were thrown from the rooftops of a nearby building soon after Sheikh Hasina had finished her speech at the rally. Then the two cases -- one under the Explosive Substances Act and another for murder -- were filed in connection with the grenade attack. The then BNP-led government formed a one-member investigation committee comprising of High Court Justice JainulAbedin on August 22, 2004. Justice JainulAbedin submitted his report after 40 days indicting that a powerful foreign intelligence agency had a hand in the incident. But Awami League turned down the probe report. As the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was later assigned to deal with the cases, they made a cooked-up story of Joj Mia and arrested him with 20 other people in connection with the incident in June 2005. Joj Mia was reportedly forced to give a statement confessing to his involvement in the attack. Later, there had been no progress in the investigation during the BNP-Jamaat rule. The investigation into the grenade attack took a new turn after the military-backed caretaker government took over following the 1/11 political changeover in 2007. On June 11, 2008, the CID assistant police superintendent FazlulKabir submitted two separate charge-sheets in the two cases, accusing 22 people, including Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami operations commander Mufti Abdul Hannan and Abdus Salam Pintu. After recording the testimonies of 61 prosecution witnesses, a court on August 3, 2009 ordered further investigation into the cases following petitions filed by the prosecution after the Awami League came to power. Now-retired police officer Abdul KaharAkanda was given the charge for carrying out investigation into the cases. In July, 2011, a supplementary charge-sheet was submitted accusing 30 more people, including TariqueRahman, former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, Abul Harris Chowdhury and the Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.

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