Staff Correspondent bdnews24.com
Published: 2018-10-10 12:46:05 BdST
Babar is among 19 people sentenced to life and Tarique, son of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia, has been handed life term along with 18 others.
The case involves the brazen attack that targeted Sheikh Hasina, who was the opposition leader at the time and now the prime minister of Bangladesh. She survived with a partial hearing loss.
A series of grenades exploded as she was stepping off a truck, which was used as a dais for an anti-terrorism rally on Bangabandhu Avenue.
The state has alleged that the then top leaders of the BNP-Jamaat alliance backed the attack purportedly carried out by militant group Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islam or HuJI to render the Awami League leaderless by killing its chief Hasina.
Former deputy minister for education Abdus Salam Pintu was also handed the death penalty while BNP chief Khaleda's former political secretary Harris Chowdhury was sentenced to life in prison.
Eleven government officials accused in the case received different jail terms.
Tarique Rahman. File Photo
A prison van transports suspects to the Dhaka tribunal.
In instant reactions, Law Minister Anisul Huq has said the government will seek scaled-up punishments for Tarique and Harris.
Huq accused Tarique of masterminding the attack and said he deserves death penalty.
Several wounded victims also expressed unhappiness over the verdict as Tarique and Harris dodged the noose.
“Tarique was the mastermind of the heinous attack but he has been given life sentence. He deserves death penalty for the crime he committed,” victim Swechchhasebak League activist Samrat Akbar Sabuj told the media outside the court after the verdict.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has also expressed a similar view.
“We are not unhappy, but not fully satisfied either. Because the mastermind deserved capital punishment,” he said.
Pro-Awami League lawyer Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam, however, sees advantages in the life sentence of Tarique.
“Now the path has opened to bring him back to serve the terms,” he said, referring to the laws of the UK, where Tarique has been staying since 2008.
The British extradition laws require that the person, whose extradition is sought by his or her country, cannot face death penalty there.
Former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar is being taken into custody from the Dhaka tribunal on Wednesday after the announcement of the verdict in the grenade attack case. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin
Speaking to reporters at the courtroom, he alleged he was framed because he had not agreed to name either Khaleda or Tarique during the investigation.
The BNP has rejected the verdict as “dictated” by the government “out of vengeance”.
“The BNP thinks that the verdict is politically motivated,” its Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
To condemn the jailing of its acting chief, the party has announced a five-day programme, including street protests and black-flag processions.
After the assassination of Bangabandhu along with most other members of his family on Aug 15, 1975, the grenade attack targeting his daughter Sheikh Hasina is the biggest hit on the Awami League, the party which led the nation in the Liberation War.
In his verdict on the 2004 grenade attack, Judge Shahed Nuruddin of Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 said a conspiracy was under way to obliterate the Awami League, the main opposition party at the time.
“It was not merely an attack. It was a disgraceful attempt to make the then opposition party leaderless,” he said.
'Ivy Rahman's blank look will forever stay with me'
The charges against the 38 who got death or life sentences in the grenade attack cases include criminal conspiracy to kill, financing, advising and abetting in the killings by providing explosives.
The 11 government officials were charged with harbouring the accused and destroying evidence.
DEATH TO 19 PEOPLE
1. Former State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar
2. Former Deputy Minister Abdus Salam Pintu
3. Hanif Enterprise owner M Hanif
4. Former Director General of NSI Abdur Rahim
5. NSI's former Director General Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury
6. Pintu's brother Harkatul Jihad leader Maulana Tajuddin
7. Abdul Malek alias Golam Mohammad
8. Sheikh Abdus Salam
9. Kashmiri citizen Abdul Majid Bhat
10. Maulana Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid
11. Mufti Hannan's brother Mohibullah Mafizur Rahman
12. Maulana Abu Sayeed
13. Abul Kalam Azad alias Bulbul
14. Md Jahangir Alam
15. Maulana Abu Taher
16. Hossain Ahmed Tamim
17. Mainuddin Sheikh alias Abu Jandal
18. Md Rafiqul Islam
19. Md Ujjal alias Ratan
19 PEOPLE GET LIFE
1. BNP’s acting chief Tarique Rahman
2. Khaleda Zia's former Political Secretary Harris Chowdhury
3. Former BNP MP Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad
4. Former Ward Commissioner Ariful Islam Arif
5. Harkatul Jihad leader Abdul Hannan alias Sabbir
6. Maulana Yahiya
7. Maulana Abdur Rouf
8. Md Khalil
9. Mufti Shafiqur Rahman
10. Mufti Abdul Hai
11. Babu alias Ratul Babu
12. Shahadat Ulha alias Jewel
13. Arif Hasan Suman
14. Mahibul Muttakin
15. Anisul Murshalin
16. Jahangir Alam Badar
17. Md Iqbal
18. Abu Bakar alias Hafez Selim Howlader
19. Liton alias Maulana Liton
11 PEOPLE JAILED FOR DIFFERENT PERIODS
#Four people are sentenced to three years in jail: former IGP Khuda Baksh Chowdhory, Special Police Superintendent Ruhul Amin, senior ASP Munshi Atiqur Rahman and ASP Abdur Rashid of CID.
#Five people are jailed for two years: former IGP Ashraful Huda, ex-IGP Shahudul Haque, Khaleda's nephew retired Lieutenant Commander Saiful Islam Duke, former DGFI Director ATM Amin Ahmed and Lieutenant Colonel (sacked) Saiful Islam Joardar.
#Two people are sentenced to two years in jail: former Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Mohammad Obaidur Rahman and Deputy Commissioner (South) Khan Syed Hasan.
Police tighten security in the court area on Old Dhaka's Nazimuddin Road on Wednesday, to ward off any violence over the verdict on the 2004 grenade attack case. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi
A prison van transports suspects to a Dhaka tribunal on Wednesday, the day of the verdict in a case that involves brazen grenade attacks on an Awami League rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin
Security was scaled up on Nazimuddin Road and adjacent areas in the morning ahead of the verdict.
Judge Nuruddin arrived sometime after 10:15am, followed by state’s counsels Syed Rezaur Rahman, Abu Abdullah Bhiyan and Mosharraf Hossain Kajol. Some pro-Awami League lawyers also joined the state counsels.
Among the defence lawyers, Abdus Sobhan Tarafder, Sanaullah Miah, Nazrul Islam and Jainul Abedin Mejbah were present.
The state-appointed lawyers for the absconding accused, including AKM Akhtar Hossain for Tarique, were also present.
The defendants in jail were brought to the court around 11:15am. Babar was transported by a microbus and the others by two prison vans.
The court was hit by power cuts twice when the judge read out the verdict for 45 minutes from 11:35am.
Nuruddin used rechargeable lights during the power failures to read out the verdict as there was no electricity most of the time.
Most of the accused were hearing the verdict attentively. One of them, Mohibullah, mocked the verdict with laughter after he was sentenced to death.
Babar appeared to be embarrassed initially, but he also heard the verdict with rapt attention.
After getting the death sentence, he spoke to his lawyers who were heard speaking about their plan to appeal against the verdict.
Asked for his reaction, the former state minister told reporters: “Allah will judge all these.”
Harris Chowdhury and Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad Mohammad Hanif and Maulana Tajuddin
Harris Chowdhury and Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad
Mohammad Hanif and Maulana Tajuddin
Twenty-three of the accused had already been in jail and the tribunal ordered eight others into prison cancelling their bail after the hearing of arguments ended on Sept 18.
The trial had continued with the 18 other accused, including Tarique, remaining fugitive from justice.
The 18 absconding are Tarique, Harris, Amin, Joarder, Kaikobad, Hanif, Sayeed, Obaidur, Tajuddin, Muttakin, Mursalin, Khalil, Badr, Iqbal, Abdul Hye, Liton, Shafiqur, and Ratul.
Some of them are purportedly behind bars abroad.
Police believe Tajuddin is either in South Africa or Pakistan while Harris is shuttling between Malaysia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Ratul is also in South Africa.
Kaikobad is believed to be in the Middle East, Hanif in Thailand or Malaysia, Amin in the US, Joarder in Canada, and Obaidur and Sayeed in Pakistan or Malaysia.
Three other accused, former minister and Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and HuJI leaders Mufti Abdul Hannan and Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul have been hanged after convictions in other cases.
HOW THE ATTACK TARGETING HASINA UNFOLDED
Hasina narrowly escaped death in the attack believed to be an assassination attempt on her.
The grenades began exploding, accompanied by gunfire, as Hasina, after wrapping up her address, was about to step off a truck, which was used as a dais at the anti-terrorism rally. Detectives said 13 to 14 grenades were detonated.
She suffered hearing problems in the attack.
The journalists covering the rally could not realise the intensity of the attack immediately.
When they came forward, they saw hundreds of footwear left by fleeing people were scattered on the street.
There were lifeless human bodies, blood and severed body parts lying on the street, said bdnews24.com Senior Correspondent Sumon Mahbub, who witnessed the attack while working as a Bhorer Kagoj staff reporter at the time.
“The screams of those wounded added to the gruesome scene,” he recounted.
As the Awami League supporters rushed back to the scene to help the injured, police started firing tear gas shells and charging baton. The law enforcers there allegedly destroyed evidence instead of collecting those.
The then government formed a one-member investigation committee comprising of High Court Justice Jainul Abedin. The Awami League rejected his probe report.
An investigation team formed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, led by Dr Kamal Hossain and including barrister Amir, also issued a report that said Hasina was the prime target of the attack.
The grisly attack in front of the Awami League’s headquarters left 16 people dead on the spot and over 500 others injured.
Bangladesh Mohila Awami League President Ivy Rahman succumbed to her injuries three days later while Dhaka Mayor Mohammad Hanif after around another one and a half years.
Among the others killed were the party’s Dhaka Metropolitan unit’s adviser Rafiqul Islam (Ada Chacha).
Hasina’s security team member Lance Corporal (retd) Mahbubur Rashid was also killed.
The others who were killed included Awami League’s central sub-committee Deputy Secretary Mostak Ahmed Sentu, Mohila Awami League leaders Sufia Begum and Hasina Mamtaz, Madaripur Juba League leader Liton Munshi, Ratan Sikdar from Narayanganj, Dhaka Mohanagar Rickshaw Shramik League leader Md Hanif, Nazrul Islam College student Mamun Mridha, Juba League leaders Aminul Islam, Atik Sarkar and Shamsuddin Abul Kalam Azad, Swechhasebak League leader Rizia Begum and activist Abdul Kuddus Patwari, and Shramik League activists Nasir Uddin Sardar, Abul Kashem, and Jahed Ali.
DIVERTING COURSE OF PROBE
The first three investigation officers of the case – CID’s Ruhul Amin, Munshi Atiqur and Rashid – have been sentenced to three years in jail for trying to save the accused people and destroying evidence.
The charges against them also include attempts to divert the investigation by showing one Joj Mia, who had no link to the attack, as the main culprit during the BNP-Jamaat government.
Joj Mia, who later became a witness in the case, has alleged that the CID officials tortured him in custody to get his ‘confession’ over the grenade attack in Dhaka after he was arrested in Noakhali on drugs charges on June 9, 2005.
He said his family was given money on a monthly basis through the CID as a reward for his ‘confession’.
CID's assistant police superintendent Fazlul Kabir pressed charges against 22 people in June, 2008 -- during the caretaker government -- although the investigation made no progress during the BNP-Jamaat government.
After the Awami League came to power in 2009, investigator Abul Kahar Akand filed a supplementary charge-sheet accusing 30 more including Tarique and Babar.
Those newly included in the charge sheet were indicted and their trial started in 2011.