Twelve death-row convicts in the Chittagong 10-truck arms haul cases have challenged their conviction and sentences handed down by a lower court on January 30 this year.
The condemned prisoners including former industries minister and Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami and former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar submitted separate appeals to the High Court through their lawyers on different dates.
The convicts have shown different grounds in the appeals in support of their prayers for acquittal, defence lawyers Barrister Emran Siddiq and Advocate Abdus Sobhan Tarafdar told The Daily Star.
The Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 of Chittagong gave capital punishment to 14 people, including Nizami, Babar and former top intelligence officials, for smuggling 10 truckloads of arms during the last BNP-led four-party rule.
Life sentences were also handed down to the 14 for possessing illegal firearms and ammunition in another case filed over the largest-ever arms haul in the country about a decade ago.
The military commander of United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa), a separatist group fighting for independence, Paresh Barua is among those condemned to death.
One of the cases was filed under the Special Powers Act, 1974 for smuggling firearms and the other was filed under the Arms Act, 1878 for possessing illegal weapons.
The cases were filed with Karnaphuli police a day after the arms were recovered at Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) jetty in the early hours of April 2, 2004.
The arms cache included 4,930 sophisticated firearms, 840 rocket launchers, 300 rockets, 27,020 grenades, 2,000 grenade-launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 11.41 million bullets.
The 10 other convicts, who filed the appeals with the HC, are former director of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) Maj Gen (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, ex-director general of National Security Intelligence (NSI) Brig Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim, former NSI director Wing Commander (retd) Shahab Uddin, former NSI deputy director Maj (retd) Liakat Hossain, ex-NSI field officer Akbar Hossain Khan, ex-CUFL managing director Mohsin Talukder, and former CUFL general manager (admin) Enamul Hoque, Hafizur Rahman Hafiz, a local arms smuggler, Din Mohammad, who supplied workers for offloading the arms cache, and Abdus Sobhan, owner of one of the two trawlers that carried the weapons from deep sea to the CUFL jetty.
The other two condemned convicts -- Paresh Barua and former additional secretary of industries ministry Nurul Amin -- have been on the run.
Citing an appeal filed by Nizami, his lawyer Emran Siddiq said there was a Supreme Court decision that two first information reports (FIRs) could not be filed in connection with a single incident.
Two separate FIRs had been filed in connection with the arms haul and the conviction, therefore, was without jurisdiction, he argued.
The arms were recovered from an open place, not from the possession of Nizami, who could not be tried under the Arms Act, Emran added.
Babar's lawyer Abdus Sobhan Tarafdar said the prosecution “could not prove” the charges brought against his client, but he [Babar] was convicted.
The evidence of one case had been recorded for another case, which was illegal, he claimed.
The defence could not say immediately when the HC would hold hearing on the appeals.
Earlier on February 6, the trial court sent relevant documents as death reference of the case to the HC for scrutinising the capital punishment, an HC official said.
The official added the HC might hold analogous hearing on the death reference and appeals of the convicts.