21 Aug grenade attacks: Time to approve death sentences

Mohiuddin Faruk . Dhaka | Update:

A while after the grenade attack. Ivy Rahman, sitting on the ground, was still alive then. File photo

Two cases in connection with the 21 August grenade attacks, which killed 24 people in 2004, are now in the second stage after the delivery of the verdict by the trial court, according to court officials.

As part of preparation for hearing in the High Court, the process has started for making paper book (details of the cases).

The trial court gave death sentence to 19 people, including former state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar and deputy education minister Abdus Salam Pintu, for the grenade attacks on an Awami League (AL) rally in the capital on that day.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday, attorney general Mahbubey Alam said, “We would take necessary steps when paper book will be prepared for death reference (approval for death sentence).

On 10 October 2018, the speedy trial court-1 in Dhaka delivered the verdict in two cases, the murder case and the explosive case, over the grenade attacks.

Besides death sentence, the court awarded 19 people, including Tarique Rahman, life in jail while 11 others were jailed for different terms.

The convicts, who are in jail, have already appealed through the jail authorities in two cases. On 13 January 2019, the High Court received a total of 44 appeals for hearing. The convicts also filed 35 more regular appeals.

As many as 20 appeals have been filed in the murder case and fifteen appeals filed in the explosive case. The state, however, did not file any appeal against the verdict of the trial court.

The convicts, who filed appeals and regular appeals, are Lutfozzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, director general at Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) retired major general Rezzaqul Haidar Chowdhury, director general at National Security Intelligence (NSI) retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim.

According to lawyers, two former inspectors general of police (IGP) Shahidul Haque and Ashraful Huda got interim bail from the High Court on 21 January 2019 by filing appeals against two years in jail in the murder case filed over the grenade attacks.

Former Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police, Khan Saeed Hasan and former Deputy Commissioner (DC-East) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Obaidur Rahman Khan, who were jailed for four years each in the murder case, surrendered to the trial court in the current year. Later they filed petitions with the HC seeking cancellation of their punishment. Their lawyer Arshadur Rouf on Sunday said the HC stayed their fines by issuing rules.

It requires approval of the HC to execute death sentence of the convicts. The HC approval for death is known as death reference case. As per rule, verdicts and records are sent to the HC for death reference. The convicts can file appeals and jail appeals against the verdicts. Hearings on the death reference and convicts’ appeals and jail appeals are held simultaneously.

According to the related section of the Supreme Court, the hearing on the death reference case of 2014 is at the final stage. The preparing of paper book of death reference of 2015 is at the last stage.

The records including verdicts of two cases over grenade attacks were sent to the related section of the High Court on 27 November 2018.

According to the registrar's office of the Supreme Court, the HC has already accepted some appeals for hearing. Rest appeals will be sent to the related bench of the HC for hearing whether those will be accepted or not. The records will be sent to the death reference section after the acceptance of the appeals for hearing. Then the activities of paper book will start. It requires two to three months for making paper books. The records including verdict of the trial court are now being examined.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday, spokesperson of the Supreme Court Saifur Rahman said the process of making paper book of 21 August grenade attack cases has started. After the scrutiny, the paper book will be sent to the printing house.

The grenade attacks were carried out on the Awami League (AL) rally at Bangabandhu Avenue on 21 August 2004 when the BNP-Jamaat alliance government was in power. The then opposition leader and now prime minister Sheikh Hasina was also injured. A total of 24 leaders and activists including Ivy Rahman, wife of former president Zillur Rahma, were killed. Several hundred leaders and activists were also injured in the incident.

Death sentence of 3 people executed

The barbarous incident is now widely known as 21 August grenade attack case. A total of 52 people were made accused in this case.

Three of the accused -- top Huji leader Mufty Abdul Hannan, Sharif Shahedul Bipul and then Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed -- were executed after trial in other cases. The court delivered verdict against rest 49 accused.

Two cases were filed with Matijheel police station in connection with 21 August 2004 grenade attack. The then BNP-Jamaat alliance government tried to divert the investigation of the cases to different directions. In 2007, the caretaker government started a fresh investigation and new information was unearthed.

In 2008, CID submitted the charge sheet against 22 people, including deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and Mufty Hannan.

According to the charge sheet, the militants wanted to create a vacuum in the AL by killing Sheikh Hasina. The trial started during the caretaker government. When the AL came to power in 2009, CID took permission of the court and started further investigation and submitted supplementary charge sheet on 3 July 2011.

Thirty more people, including Tarique Rahman, Lutfozzaman Babar, Haris Chowdhury and Mojaheed, were made accused.

A total of 52 people were made accused in the murder case and 41 made accused in the explosive case.

The court sentenced 19 people to death and fined Tk 100,000 each. They are: Lutfozzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, Maulana Md Tajuddin, Hanif Paribahan owner Md Hanif, former DGFI director general and also retired major general Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury, former NSI director general and also retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim, Maulana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Md Abdul Mazed Bhat alias Md Yousuf Bhat, Abdul Malek alias Golam Mohammad alias GM, Maulana Shawkat Hossain alias Sheikh Farid, Mahibullah alias Mafijur Rahman alias Ovi, Maulana Abu Sayeed alias Jafar, Abul Kalam Azad alias Bulbul, Md Jahangir Alam, Hafiz Maulana Abu Taher, Hossain Ahmed Tamim, Main Uddin Sheikh alias Mufti Main alias Khajwa alias Abu Jandal alias Masum Billha, Md Rafiqul Iqbal Islam alias Sabuj alias Khalid Saifullah alias Shamim alias Rashed, and Md Ujjal alias Ratan.

The trial court sentenced a total of 19 people to life and fined Tk 50,000 each. The convicts are BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, BNP leader Haris Chowdhury, Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, Ariful Islam Arif, Shahdat Ullah Jewel, Mufty Abdur Rouf, Maulana Abdul Hannan alias Sabbir, Arif Hasan alias Sumon alias Abdur Razzak, Hafez Maulana Yahia, Maulana Abu Bakor Siddique alias Hafez Selim Howlader, Mursalin, Muttakin, Jahangir Badar, Md Iqbal, Ratul Ahmed, Mufty Shafiqur Rahman, Mufty Abul Hai, Maulana Liton and Md Khalil.

Eleven people were sentenced to different jail terms. They are major general ATM Amin, retired lieutenant colonel Saiful Islam Joardar, retired lieutenant commander Saiful Islam Duke, former IGP Ashraful Huda, former IGP Shohidul Haque, former DIG Khan Saeed Hasan, DMP former DC (east) Obaidur Rahman Khan, former IGP Khoda Box Chowdhury, former ASP Abdur Rashid, former police super Ruhul Amin and former ASP Munshi Atiqur Rahman.

Whereabouts of the major convicts

Of 49 convicts, 31 including Lutfozzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, retired major general Rezzaqul Haidar Chowdhury, retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim and retired lieutenant commander Saiful Islam Duke are now in jail. Rest 19 convicts, including Tarique Rahman and Haris Chowdhury, were shown as fugitives in the record.

Tarique has been staying in London since 2008. BNP chairperson and former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s political secretary Haris Chowdhury fled the country through Sylhet border after the 1/11 change over in 2007. Nobody is sure about his whereabouts. However, it is believed that he is in London.

Tajul Islam, brother of Abdus Salam Pintu, was sent abroad on fake passport by some officials of intelligence agencies. It is believed that he is now in South Africa.

Before the submission of supplementary charge sheet, major general ATM Amin left the country for Middle East. His current status could not be known. Retired lieutenant colonel Saiful Islam Joardar was in Dubai for long to evade arrest. But his current status could not be known.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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