Saturday, November 25, 2017

HM Ershad acquitted of corruption charges over procuring radars

  • Court Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-04-19 16:59:59 BdST


A Dhaka court has acquitted former military dictator and Jatiya Party chief HM Ershad of corruption charges over radar procurement.

Senior Special Judge Kamrul Hossain Molla delivered his verdict on Wednesday, in the presence of Ershad, now a special envoy to the prime minister.

The judge also acquitted three others -- former air force chiefs Sultan Mahmud, Momtaj Uddin Ahmed and AKM Musa, director of United Traders, the local agent for the radar purchase.

After the ouster of Ershad in 1990, the then Bureau of Anti-Corruption filed the case in 1992, where it accused the four of costing the state over Tk 640 million in losses while purchasing four radars for the civil aviation authority when he was the president.

Defence lawyers Shamsuddin Babul, Sheikh Sirajul Islam and Altaf Hossain expressed satisfaction over the verdict.

Anti-Corruption Commission lawyer Mir Ahmed Ali Salam said they would wait for the full version of the verdict before taking any move to challenge the decision in the High Court.

In the verdict, the judge said it was not clear in the statements of the prosecution witnesses how the accused embezzled the state’s money.

The state failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt because important witnesses like the then defence secretary MA Anisuzzaman and the then minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury were not testified.

United Traders’ director Shahzad Ali was acquitted of the charges earlier after he had testified against the others, but the defence could not quiz the magistrate, who took Shahzad’s statement, according to the verdict.

The 87-year-old deposed military strongman, Ershad, was in court, wearing a dark suit. He entered the courtroom with Jatiya Party Secretary General Ruhul Amin Howlader around 3:45pm.

The party’s Presidium Member and Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Presidium Members Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu, Syed Abu Hossain Babla, and Kazi Feroze Rashid were already there.

A handful of Ershad’s supporters shouted slogans in front of the court, demanding cancellation of the cases against him.

Ershad was given a chair to sit on. He seemed to be unmoved and did not speak to the media after the verdict.

After his ouster following a mass movement, a total of 42 cases on various charges were started against Ershad. He was sentenced to different terms in jail in three of the cases and served out a total of six years.

According to the affidavit he submitted to the Election Commission during the 2014 elections, he mentioned eight cases on trial against him at the time. He was acquitted, or sentenced in some of the other cases while the rest were disposed of.

Out of the eight cases, four have been stayed by the High Court.

A reinvestigation was ordered into the Major General Manzoor Murder Case in 2014, when the trial was at the final stage in a judge’s court.

The High Court is scheduled to deliver its verdict on May 9 on Ershad’s appeal against his three-year jail term for financial irregularities involving gifts worth over Tk 19 million he had received as president.