L-R: Saifur Rahman, Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan M Mojahid
A special court yesterday sent BNP leader M Saifur Rahman, Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Matiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid to jail in Barapukuria coalmine graft case.
It rejected bail prayers of the three after they surrendered on directives from the High Court (HC).
Judge Amar Kumar Roy of the Special Court-2 said since the case is under the Emergency Power Rules (EPR), there is no scope for the accused to be granted bail.
The next hearing will be held tomorrow.
Nizami, also former industries minister, was the first to be at the courtroom. He showed up at 9:45am, followed by Mojahid at 10:00am and Saifur Rahman at 11:30am.
Saifur, also former finance minister, was taken there in a wheelchair.
Later, former state minister for energy and mineral resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain who surrendered in the case Sunday was produced.
Thousands of Jamaat leaders and workers gathered at the north entrance to the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex that houses the special courts set up to try graft cases.
They chanted slogans demanding release of their leaders.
Despite special security measures, the Jamaat activists blocked the road between Khamarbari and Bijoy Sarani intersections. They brought out processions and held a rally, causing huge tailbacks on the adjacent roads.
Saifur, Nizami and Mojahid were taken out of the court for Dhaka Central Jail at around 2:30pm.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the case on February 26 this year against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and 15 others including 10 former ministers from BNP and Jamaat.
The charge is causing a loss of Tk 159 crore to the state exchequer by awarding a contract for Barapukuria coalmine operation to a Chinese company through abuse of power.
After the court sat at 12:40pm, counsels for the accused prayed for time and 'continuation of bail for their clients'.
They argued the proceedings should be adjourned until the HC rules on their petitions for quashment of the case.
As the judge asked Saifur's lawyer whether the ailing BNP leader had obtained bail from the higher court, he replied in the negative.
Abdur Razzak, counsel for Nizami, requested the court to uphold his client's bail, and said a prayer has already been submitted to the HC for bail extension.
Prosecution lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajal said the accused were not even on bail. The High Court on November 4 and 5 asked them to surrender to the trial court.
He said the accused did not seek bail by the time operation of the HC directives not to harass or arrest them till submission of police report ceased to be in force.
Besides, he said, the EPR does not provide for granting bail to the accused.
Mojahid's lawyers said the quashment petition will be heard tomorrow and they should be allowed time till then.
In response, the prosecution lawyer said he [Mojahid] is a lawbreaker. He did not surrender even after he was directed by the HC to do so.
After yesterday's proceedings, Nizami said if being a member of the purchase committee renders someone accused, no-one will want to be part of it[purchase committee].
The accused former ministers from BNP are Saifur Rahman, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, M Shamsul Islam, MK Anwar, Aminul Haque, Altaf Hossain Choudhury, and AKM Mosharraf Hossain. Mojahid and Nizami are accused ex-ministers from Jamaat.
The others charged are former acting secretary to energy and mineral resources Nazrul Islam, former Petrobangla chairman SR Osmani, former Petrobangla director Mainul Ahsan, former managing director of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd (BCMCL) Sirajul Islam and Hosaf Group Chairman Moazzem Hossain.
Defence lawyer Abdur Razzak told reporters that they have accepted the decision, though they do not consider it fair.
He said Saifur is seriously ill and Nizami too is an aged person. Like co-accused Khaleda Zia, Altaf Hossain Choudhury and Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, they should also be allowed bail.
Razzak said they will go to the higher court.
Prosecution lawyer Kajal said the accused did not surrender in time.
In protest at the court's decision, Jamaat leaders and activists held a rally at the north entrance to Sangsad Bhaban complex.
Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Saidee said by sending their leaders to jail the government has further diminished the prospect of a congenial atmosphere for the parliamentary election.
He said the four-party alliance will not participate in the election unless their seven-point demand is met and leaders released.
The rally ended at around 3:30pm.
Talking to the reporters, Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Mohammad Kamaruzzaman said the court's decision would have adverse effects on the upcoming election.