Conviction spree ahead of election: 68 BNP men sentenced in one day

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With just a month and a half to go for the Jatiya Sangsad (national Parliament) election, the court on Monday convicted 10 important leaders of BNP and its affiliated organisations in five separate cases. Another 61 mid-ranking leaders of the party have been convicted along with them in these cases. Of them, three of them had been convicted in several cases each. So in all, 68 leaders of BNP have been convicted in a single day.

These leaders who have been sentenced to imprisonment include BNP's joint secretary general Habib Un Nabi Khan, information affairs secretary Azizul Bari, and volunteer affairs secretary Mir Sharafat Ali.

The convicted Jubo Dal leaders are the former president of the organisation Saiful Alam, present president Sultan Salahuddin and former general secretary Khandakar Enamul Huq.

The convicted leaders of Chhatra Dal are former presidents Rajib Ahsan and Habibur Rashid, former general secretary Akramul Hasan and Dhaka city north Chhatra Dal's former president Abul Mansur Khan. Of these four incumbent and former leaders, other than Mansur the remaining three are members of BNP's executive committee.

The court has passed sentences of varying terms against these 10 Chhatra Dal leaders in five different cases on charges of unlawful gatherings, obstructing police duty, damaging and setting fire to vehicles and exploding crude bombs. These cases were filed between 2015 and 2018 against them.

Magistrates of the Dhaka's Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM)'s court, Ataullah and Mohammad Sheikh Sadi, announced these verdicts of the five cases separately yesterday, Monday.

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Jubo Dal's former president Saiful Alam was brought to the court from prison yesterday during the announcement of the verdict. The rest were not present in court. The verdict sentenced the 10 to two years imprisonment each.

Also yesterday, Monday, Habib Un Nabi, Azizul Bar and Saiful Alam were convicted in other cases.

Earlier, in a different case on Sunday, the court convicted another 62 leaders and activists of BNP and its affiliated bodies. With that, 348 leaders and activists of BNP have been convicted over the past two and a half months in 23 cases.

By passing these sentences, the government wants to keep the BNP leaders at a distance from politics, said the party's legal affairs secretary Kaiser Kamal. Speaking to Prothom Alo over mobile phone Monday night, he said that the government is desperately completing all the cases against the party men and convicting them. Important leaders of the party are being convicted one after the other.

He said that the BNP leaders and activists are not being given due justice by the court.

However, Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge court's chief public prosecutor (PP) Abdullah Abu said that such allegations were not true. Speaking to Prothom Alo Monday night, he said that the cases were filed on specific charges against the BNP leaders and activists. The police submitted the charges to court after due investigation. The state brought forward witnesses to provide the charge. And the court convicted them after the charges were proven.

PP Abdullah Abu said, if the defendants are not satisfied with the verdict, they can appeal to the court too seek legal recompense. But in no way can these be termed as cases for the same of political harassment.

Lawyers have said that there are around at least 150 cases in various courts of Dhaka against BNP leaders. They say given the speed at which the depositions and the defence arguments in these cases against the BNP men are being heard, many of the cases are likely to be settled very soon.

22 persons, including 10 important leaders sentenced in one case

One of the five cases in which 71 were convicted by the court, had been filed at the Paltan police station in the capital. According to the case details, at 8:45 on the morning of 18 October in 2017, an unlawful rally was state on the road in front of BNP's central office, blocking vehicular movement. The Paltan police station's sub-inspector (SI) Abul Kalam Azad and other members of the police had requested BNP leaders to allow normal movement of traffic. But 26 of the party men including Jubo Dal president Sultan Salahuddin obstructed the police from carrying out their duty. Two police constables were injured by bricks thrown by the party men. The police submitted chargesheets to the court against 40 men including BNP's joint secretary general Habib Un Nabi Khan.

Taking the police's chargesheet into cognizance, the court on 20 September last year formed charges against the accused. Of the 14 witnesses mentioned in the chargesheet, the state prosecution presented 5 police witnesses before the court. Depositions began on 25 October. On 9 November the court heard the testimony of the fifth witness.

The verdict in this case was passed by the CMM court magistrate Ataullah yesterday, Monday. The court sentenced 22 persons in this case to two years' imprisonment each. They included Habib Un Nabi Khan, Azizul Bari Helal, Sultan Salahuddin, Khandakar Enamul Huq, Saiful Alam, Habibur Rashid, Rajib Ahsan, Akramul Hasan and others. The rest were acquitted.

Speaking to Prothom Alo after the verdict, three of the defence lawyers, Syed Nazrul Islam, Nehar Hossain and Iltutmish Sawdagar, said that the BNP leaders had been convicted in false cases to keep them away from the election. They would appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdicts.

14 convicted in case filed at New Market police station

Another one of the cases in which the sentences were passed yesterday, had been filed at the New Market police station. According to the case charges, BNP men had exploded crude bombs at the New Market gate 4 on 29 January 2015 to create alarm among the people. The police filed a case in this incident against 13 BNP men at the New Market police station.

After investigations, the police on 21 July 2015 submitted a chargesheet to the court against 14 persons including BNP's joint secretary general Habib  Un Nabi Khan, BNP's volunteer affairs secretary Mir Sharafat Ali, information affairs secretary Azizul Bari and others.

Taking the police chargesheet into cognizance, the court on 15 March 2021 formed charges against 14 persons including BNP leader Habib Un Nabi Khan. The police mentioned 20 witnesses in the chargesheet. The prosecution presented five of them before the court, all members of the police force. Deposition began on 17 July this year and the fifth witness gave testimony on 9 November.

Dhaka's CMM court magistrate Ataullah passed the verdict in this case. Under Section 143 of the penal code (unlawful assembly), 14 persons including Habib Un Nabi were given six months prison sentence each. And under Section 323 of the penal code (voluntarily causing hurt), they were given another one year prison sentence each.

35 convicted in 3 cases

Seven persons, including former Jubo Dal president Saiful Alam, were convicted to two years imprisonment each in a case accusing them of setting a private car on fire in May 2015 in Tejgaon. The verdict was passed by Dhaka's CMM court magistrate Mohammad Sheikh Sadi. The testimony of four persons was taken, two of whom were members of the police.

Yesterday, Monday, the court sentenced 14 BNP men to 2 years 3 months imprisonment each, in a case filed in September 2018 with the Shahjahanpur police station. The verdict was pronounced by Dhaka CMM court magistrate Ataullah.

The case sheet said, 130 leaders and activists of BNP had brought out an anti-government procession opposite the Shahjahanpur graveyard. Demonstrating for the release of Khaleda Zia, they began damaging passing vehicles and exploding crude bombs, creating alarm among the people. The police submitted chargesheets in this case against 18 persons including BNP leader Hasanul Huq.

The prosecution brought forward 5 policemen as witnesses among the 13 witnesses in the case. Their depositions  began on 31 October and ended with the fifth witnesses testimony on 8 November. The verdict yesterday, Monday, convicted 14, while 4 were acquitted.

BNP is terming these cases in which their leaders are being convicted, as politically motivated. The party claims that the sentences are being passed to harass and create fear among the party's leaders and activists

The court yesterday convicted another 14 of BNP in a case filed on September 2018 at the Chawk Bazar police station.

The case details stated that BNP men had gathered on 5 September 2018 to disrupt court proceedings at the temporary tribunal set up the central jail administration building. They hurled bricks at the police and exploded crude bombs. After investigations, the police submitted chargesheets against 21, including BNP's organising secretary at the time, Rafiqul Islam.

The trial in this case began on 31 October. The first deposition was taken on 8 November. After the deposition of four witnesses, the court on Monday convicted 14 including Rafiqul, sentencing them to three years imprisonment each.

62 convicted on Sunday too

The court has passed sentence in a case filed in September 2018 at the Bangshal police station. In the verdict, 62 BNP leaders and activists were convicted. Harun Ar Rashid Bhuiyan, legal counsel of the BNP leaders, yesterday told Prothom Alo, fictional cases were lodged all over the country in 2018 before the election. Even dead people were named in those cases. The court is now handing down the verdicts in all these cases filed to harass the BNP leaders and activists.

BNP is terming these cases in which their leaders are being convicted, as politically motivated. The party claims that the sentences are being passed to harass and create fear among the party's leaders and activists.

Speaking to Prothom Alo yesterday, Monday, BNP's vice chairman and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Zainul Abedin, said he was not aware that political leaders and activists were convicted on charges of unlawful assembly, obstructing official duty and blocking vehicle movement on the streets. He felt that these convictions were being made to keep the BNP leaders and activists away from politics and the election.

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