In a retrial, a court in Rajshahi yesterday commuted the death penalties of two Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leaders to life imprisonment in a case filed for killing RU teacher Muhammad Yunus 12 years ago.
Speedy trial tribunal Judge Golam Ahmed Khalilur Rahman also fined each of the duo Tk 5,000, in default of which they would have to stay one more year in jail, said Public Prosecutor (PP) Entajul Haque, quoting the verdict.
Of the convicts, Shahidullah alias Mahbub is the husband of a niece of executed JMB military commander Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai. The other one, Shafiullah alias Tarek, is the commander of the banned militant outfit in Rajshahi.
The judge pronounced the verdict in their presence yesterday noon.
Yunus, a professor of economics department, was knifed to death near his Binodpur house, a few yards away from the Rajshahi University campus, on December 24 in 2004.
Inspector Mohammad Helaluddin of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) pressed charges against eight JMB militants on September 10, 2007.
In the charge-sheet, Helaluddin claimed that 10 militants took part in the murder. One of them was killed in 2005 and identity of another could not be known.
The then JMB chief Shayakh Abdur Rahman, who was executed along with five other JMB leaders in March 2007, had ordered Mahbub to kill
Yunus. Mahbub picked the nine others to carry out the “operation”.
On January 28, 2010, the then Rajshahi speedy trial tribunal Judge Md Manjurul Bachhid sentenced Mahbub and Tarek to death in the case. However, the other charge-sheeted accused were acquitted of the charge.
Following a petition by the duo challenging their sentences, the High Court later asked the Rajshahi tribunal to hold a retrial, indentifying some “flaws” in the previous trial, said PP Entajul Haque.
He said the lower court judgement was based on judicial confessions of the two convicts as there were no eyewitnesses in the case.
However, police, following their primary investigation, had submitted names of two witnesses which were later dropped from the prosecution list, he said.
The HC asked the lower court to accept the statements of the witnesses during the retrial.
Also, police had submitted a photocopy of Tarek's confessional statement instead of the original copy, which was also a flaw, said the PP.