Including Former state minister for home affairs Lutfojjaman Babar and deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu among 19 person have been sentenced to death while BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s former special assistant Abul Harris Chowdhury among 19 has been jailed for life for the grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital on 21 August in 2004. Judge of Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 Shahed Nuruddin at Old Dhaka’s Nazimuddin Road handed over the verdict around 11am on Wednesday (October 10). The speedy trial tribunal sentenced 18 others to life imprisonment in two cases while 11 people were awarded different jail terms.
The deadly grenade attack aimed at killing Awami League president Sheikh Hasina at a rally of Awami League in Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital city took place during the regime of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led four-party alliance. Twenty-two people were killed in the attack, including Awam League’s secretary for women’s affairs Ivy Rahman. Three hundred people more, including Sheikh Hasina, who was then leader of the opposition at the time. At least 13 grenades were thrown from the rooftops of a nearby building soon after Sheikh Hasina had finished her speech at the rally. The two cases were filed in connection with the blasts—one under the Explosive Substances Act and the other for murdering.
The BNP-led government then formed a one-member investigation committee comprising of High Court justice Jainul Abedin on 22 August 2004. Justice Jainul Abedin 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.
Fresh facts about the case were revealed during the caretaker government’s rule in 2007. Of the 491 witnesses in both the cases, the trial court has recorded the statements of 176 since the beginning of the trial in 2008. On 9 June 2008, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) pressed charges against BNP leader Abdus Salam Pintu, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Huji) chief Mufti Abdul Hannan and 20 others in the cases. In the meantime, Awami League came in power and formed the government in 2009 and submitted petitions on 3 August 2009 for further investigation into the cases.
Following the pleas, the court ordered the CID for further investigation into the cases. Nearly two years of investigation, the CID on 3 July 2011 submitted supplementary charge sheets against 30 people, including BNP senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman, former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, BNP leader Harris Chowdhury and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed. On 18 March 2012, the court framed charges against Tarique and others. The second trial commenced on the following month.
The trial against 52 accused in the two cases was being held simultaneously with Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 at the makeshift court at a building near the gate of Dhaka Central Jail. Intelligence source said of the 18 fugitive accused, Tarique Rahman is now in London while Harris Chowdhury in Assam of India, Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad in Bangkok, Mohammad Hanif, owner of Hanif Enterprise, in Kolkata, Maj Gen (retd) ATM Amin in the United States, Lt Col (retd) Saiful Islam Joarder in Canada, Babu alias Ratul Babu in India, Anisul Morsalin and his brother Mohibul Muttakin in an Indian jail.
The then deputy commissioner (east) Md Obaidur Rahman, the then deputy commissioner (south) Khan Syed Hasan and militant leaders Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai, Maulana Abu Bakar, Iqbal, Khalilur Rahman, Jahangir Alam alias Badar, Maulana Liton alias Zobair alias Delwar and Maulana Tajul Islam are also at large.