Former dictator HM Ershad, principal accused in the Manzoor murder case, and two other accused ex-military officials were present in a Dhaka court yesterday to hear it pronounce the long-pending verdict.
But the court decided to hear the arguments afresh on February 27 terming the case “old” and “sensational”, thanks to the transfer of the judge just a week ago.
The case has seen 22 judges since it was filed on August 28, 1995, and the judges were either promoted or transferred to other districts.
“I have joined the court recently. I am not aware of the case,” said Khondker Hasan Md Firoz, the newly appointed judge of the First Additional District Sessions and Judges' Court of Dhaka.
Moreover, statements of 28 prosecution witnesses were not properly written, he added.
“So I shall have to scrutinise all the documents of the case and hear both the prosecution and the defence.”
Talking to The Daily Star, Public Prosecutor Asaduzzaman Khan Rochi said he would try to complete the arguments on the next date if the judge hears.
Ershad's counsel Sheikh Muhammad Serajul Islam, however, said it would depend on the judge's decision whether the arguments would be concluded on the next scheduled date or take longer time.
Jatiya Party Chairman Ershad, also special envoy of the prime minister, looked tense while he was at the court yesterday.
Of the four other accused, Maj (retd) Kazi Emdadul Haque and Lt Col (retd) Mostafa Kamaluddin Bhuiyan were present at the court. The proceedings against Maj Gen (retd) Abdul Latif and Lt Col (retd) Shamsur Rahman Shams have been stayed by the High Court.
The case filed in 1995 during the then BNP-led government has never got the pace for disposal. The trial began in 1999 when the Awami League-led government was in power.
But it was sped up in July last year after Ershad had refused to extend support to the AL-nominated mayoral candidate in the Gazipur City Corporation election.
At that stage, both the prosecution and the defence placed their arguments.
Hearing of the case resumed in November last and on completion of hearing on January 22, the court fixed yesterday for delivering the verdict.
The Dhaka district judge on January 29 transferred Judge Begum Hosne Ara Aktar of the Manzoor murder case to another court replacing Khondker Hasan Md Firoz.
Maj Gen Abul Manzoor was killed at Chittagong Cantonment on June 1, 1981, just two days into the assassination of the then president Ziaur Rahman.
Manzoor, who was the commander of Sector-8 during the Liberation War, was believed to have carried out an abortive Chittagong coup in which Zia was killed.