All eyes on court ahead of 21 Aug grenade attack verdict in B’desh

All eyes on court ahead of 21 Aug grenade attack verdict in B’desh

Agency News

Dhaka, Oct 10: After a long wait for over 14 years, a speedy trial tribunal is set to deliver its verdict on Wednesday in two cases filed over the 21 August grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004.

Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 at Old Dhaka's Nazimuddin Road may deliver the verdict in the two cases around 10:45am, court sources said.

BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, two former ministers Abdus Salam Pintu and Lutfozzaman Babar and former top police and intelligence officials of the then BNP-led four-party alliance government are among 49 accused in the cases.

Three other accused -Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, and militant leaders Mufti Abdul Hannan and Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul - were dropped from the cases as they had been executed after convictions in other cases.

Of the accused, Tarique, the then prime minister Khaleda Zia's political secretary Abul Harris Chowdhury, former BNP MP Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad and 15 others are on the run.

Earlier on 18 September, the tribunal fixed 10 October to pronounce its verdict in two cases - one for murder and the other for grenade blast - after both the prosecution and the defence completed their arguments.

Closing their arguments, the prosecutors sought the highest punishment to all the accused, including Tarique Rahman, saying they were able to prove all the charges beyond reasonable doubt.

They also said Tarique masterminded the attack and helped militants in order to kill Sheikh Hasina by throwing the grenades to make Awami League leaderless.

But the defence lawyers sought acquittal of their clients as they said the prosecution failed to present substantial evidence to prove the charges.

They also claimed that Tarique, who has been staying in London since 2008, was implicated in the cases with a political motive.

On 23 October last, the prosecution started placing arguments before the tribunal in connection with the two cases filed over the 21 August grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004.

On 21 August 2004, the grisly grenade attack was carried out on an anti-terrorism rally arranged by Awami League on the Bangabandhu Avenue during the BNP-Jamaat alliance's rule, aiming to kill the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina.

At least 24 leaders and activists, including AL's women affairs secretary and late president Zillur Rahman's wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and Sheikh Hasina among 300 others injured in the grenade attack.

At least 13 grenades were thrown from the rooftops of a nearby building soon after Sheikh Hasina had finished her speech at the rally.

Then the two cases - one under the Explosive Substances Act and another for murder -- were filed in connection with the grenade attack.

The then BNP-led government 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.

The investigation into the grenade attack took a new turn after the military-backed caretaker government took over following the 1/11 political changeover in 2007.

On 11 June 2008, the CID assistant police superintendent Fazlul Kabir submitted two separate charge-sheets in the two cases, accusing 22 people, including Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami operations commander Mufti Abdul Hannan and Abdus Salam Pintu.

After recording the testimonies of 61 prosecution witnesses, a court on 3 August 2009 ordered further investigation into the cases following petitions filed by the prosecution after the Awami League came to power.

Now-retired police officer Abdul Kahar Akanda was given the charge for carrying out an investigation into the cases. In July, 2011, a supplementary charge-sheet was submitted accusing 30 more people, including Tarique Rahman, former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, Abul Harris Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed. UNI