Mirza Fakhrul Islam
Forty-six opposition leaders, including BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, will go on trial this week in a case filed for torching a bus.
A Dhaka court yesterday framed charges against them and set August 7 for the trial to begin.
The leaders may get a maximum of five years' imprisonment if the allegations against them are proved. As per the law, the case, which was filed under the speedy trial act, has to be dealt with within 60 working days.
The court yesterday also issued arrest warrants against BNP leaders Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Amanullah Aman and Nazimuddin Alam after rejecting their bail petitions in the arson case.
BNP leaders on several occasions have alleged that the case was filed only to prevent the opposition leaders from taking part at the next elections.
Lawyers for the opposition politicians said they would go to the High Court against this charge framing.
BNP standing committee member and senior lawyer Rafiqul Islam Mia said the charge framing was nothing but an indication that the government wanted to push the country into chaos.
The arson case was filed on April 29 with Tejgaon Police Station after a bus was torched in front of the Prime Minister's Office during a countrywide hartal enforced by the opposition.
Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid framed the charges yesterday, rejecting the adjournment petition filed by defence lawyers. Fakhrul and 38 others were present during the charge framing.
Following the developments at court, pro-BNP lawyers brought out a procession on the court premises protesting the orders.
Protesting the charge framing, BNP leader Rafiqul Islam Mia said charges could not be framed against opposition leaders, including the BNP secretary general, if anyone took the first information report into consideration.
“Thousands of criminals were released from jail as the government withdrew even murder and rape cases in the last three years. On the other hand, cases are being filed one after another against opposition leaders,” he told The Daily Star.
Earlier, Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Erfan Ullah felt embarrassed when defence lawyers filed a no-confidence petition against him as he had rejected two of their petitions during yesterday's hearing. The metropolitan magistrate then sent the matter to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court for the next course of action.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Bikash Kumar Saha sent the case to Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid for disposal. Later, Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid framed charges against the opposition leaders.
Earlier in the day, defence lawyers submitted a petition before Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Erfan Ullah saying that they had filed a writ petition with the High Court on Sunday challenging the legality of appointing him to conduct the case.
As an order on the writ was yet to be delivered and the issues remained pending with the High Court, the defence yesterday prayed for an adjournment of the hearing on charge framing.
The prosecution opposed it saying that the High Court had neither passed an order nor issued a stay order on the matter. So, the case proceedings should go on.
After hearing both sides, the court rejected the adjournment petition. Following that, the defence filed another petition seeking permission to appeal to the High Court challenging the rejection order. The court rejected that petition too.
In this situation, the defence filed the no-confidence petition against the magistrate.
Of the 46 accused, Jamaat-e-Islami acting ameer Maqbul Ahmad and three leaders of Islami Chhatra Shibir have been absconding since the case was filed.
Former Dhaka City Corporation mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka was abroad for treatment while BNP leaders Amanullah Aman and Nazimuddin Alam were in Saudi Arabia for Umrah.
The remaining 39 opposition leaders, including Fakhrul, were present during yesterday's proceedings.
On May 10, detectives pressed charges against Mirza Fakhrul and 45 others in the arson case, which was filed with Tejgaon Police station following the setting on fire of a vehicle in front of the Prime Minister's Office on April 29 during hartal hours.
Opposition alliances had enforced the hartal on the day to protest the disappearance of the party's organising secretary M Ilias Ali.
Soon after the filing of the case, all the opposition leaders, including Alamgir, went into hiding and then surrendered before the High Court on May 7. In line with HC directives they surrendered before the trial court on May 16. Subsequently the court sent them to jail.
On June 7 and 14, the politicians obtained bail from the High Court and trial court.
BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, MK Anwar, Brig Gen (retd) Hannan Shah, Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Mirza Abbas, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Amanullah Aman, Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, AKM Fazlul Haque Milon, Shahiduddin Chowdhury Anne, Mahbub Uddin Khokon, Lutfor Rahman and Nabi Solaiman; Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal President Sultan Salauddin Tuku; Liberal Democratic Party President Col (retd) Oli Ahmed; Jamaat-e-Islami acting ameer Maqbul Ahmad; BJP President Andalib Rahman Partha; Swechchhasebak Dal President Habib-un-Nabi Khan Sohel; Jagpa President Shafiul Alam Pradhan and Pragatishil Ganotantrik Shakti Chairman Sheikh Shawkat Hossain Nilu.
Mohammad Sohel alias Sohan Miah, conductor of the bus torched; Mohammad Jasim Uddin and Manik Ratan, helpers of the vehicle.
The others accused in the charge sheet are: BNP leader Nazimuddin Alam; Swechchhasebak Dal General Secretary Mir Sharafat Ali Safu; JCD General Secretary Amirul Islam Khan Alim; JCD Organising Secretary Anisur Rahman Khokon; Dhaka South Juba Dal President SM Jahangir Hossain Sarder; its General Secretary Rafiqul Islam alias Mojnu; Swechchhasebak Dal Convenor Yeasin Ali; its general Secretary Saiful Islam Nirob; DU unit JCD Convenor Abdul Matin; its Joint Convenor Obaidul Haque Nasir; Dhaka South JCD general Secretary Habibur Rashid; Dhaka North JCD General Secretary Kamal Anwar Ahmed; former Dhaka City Corporation ward councillors Kazi Abul Bashar, Yunus Mridha and Anwaruzzaman alias Anwar; former student leader Mohammad Kamruzzaman Ratan; president of Titumir College unit JCD Mohammad Ismail Khan Shahin; Swechchhasebak Dal president of Mohammadpur Police Station area Mohammad Mannan Hossain Shahin and Chhatra Shibir leaders Nurul Islam Bulbul, Abdul Jabbar and Delwar Hossain Sayedee.