The 10 truckloads of arms and ammunition seized in Chittagong in 2004 had been smuggled in to reinforce Indian separatist group Ulfa with a motive for ruining the relationship with India, said a Chittagong court.
The Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 yesterday released the 516-page full text of the judgements in the two cases filed in connection with the arms haul. The Daily Star has obtained the summary of the court observation.
There, the court said the smuggling of such a huge volume of weapons and ammunition was not possible without government support.
It found the role of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia mysterious, as instead of reacting sharply she had remained silent despite being informed of such a big incident.
The court also expressed shock with the facts that some top-ranking officials of two intelligence agencies -- the DGFI and NSI -- were involved in the country's largest ever arms smuggling and kept close contact with Ulfa leader Paresh Barua.
"… They [the intelligence officials] were involved in the conspiracy to destroy the entire nation by pushing the country's existence at stake," said Judge SM Mojibur Rahman of Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 in the full text of verdicts.
On January 30, the tribunal handed down death penalty to 14 accused, including the then ministers Motiur Rahman Nizami and Lutfozzaman Babar, in the smuggling case. The same 14 were awarded life terms in the other case filed under the Arms Act.
The cases had been lodged with Karnaphuli Police Station a day after the arms haul at the jetty of state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd in the early hours of April 2, 2004.
The seized items 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.
In its verdict synopsis, the court observed that it was possible to build a cantonment with the seized weapons and ammunition.
The full text of the verdict in the smuggling case was of 260 pages while that of the arms case 256 pages, Omar Fuad, a bench assistant of the tribunal told The Daily Star.
The full verdicts would be sent to the High Court for the next course of action, he added.
According to the smuggling case verdict, it was revealed from the evidence that the ministers of the then government and top-ranking officials of the military and civil administrations in connivance with each other and Paresh Barua had attempted the smuggling in a planned way.
The verdict said the accused intelligence officials did not bother to consider the possibility of destroying good relationship with a neighbour country.
"The derailed army officials stigmatised our glorious foreign policy by getting involved in the incident stated in the cases … the accused got engaged in such a severe crime without considering the glory of the country's armed forces; it is extremely regrettable and frustrating," reads the verdict summary.
It also said the incident of the largest arms haul had taken place at a time when Babar and Nizami were at the helm of the home and industries ministries respectively.
"Lutfozzaman Babar tried to tactically hide the entire incident without taking minimum legal actions against the accused," reads the summary.
For smuggling or other terrorist activities, it said, international smugglers and criminals usually choose the countries where policymakers and top ranking military and civil administration officers could easily be managed.
Ulfa leader Paresh Barua took the lead in this case, says the observation, adding that, "Had the officials of NSI and DGFI not allowed and given him [Paresh] shelter, such a big crime would not have taken place."
In their statements, accused NSI officials confessed that they had received thousands of dollars and attractive gifts by keeping contacts with embassy officials of some countries. They had also accepted hospitality of Paresh and other countries and attended several secret meetings at home and abroad, the tribunal observed.
It is implicit from their confessional statements that they were engaged in destroying the nation by pushing its existence at stake, the tribunal said, adding, "So the derailed high officials of military and civil administrations deserve the highest punishment for the crimes. Otherwise, such incident may recur."
Referring to the statements of witnesses, the tribunal in its observation also stated that Babar implicated two eye witnesses of the arms haul -- sergeants Alauddin and Helal Uddin -- in an arms case and inhumanly tortured them physically and mentally.
Although the two were implicated in that case filed in connection with theft, and possession and sale of AK-47 rifles, no such evidence was found, the tribunal observed.