The Appellate Division yesterday concluded hearing of the appeals of five death row convicts in the case over the rape and murder of Shazneen Tasnim Rahman in her Gulshan house about two decades ago. The Supreme Court will deliver the verdict any day now.
A five-member Appellate Division bench of the SC, headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, heard the appeals for the final day yesterday.
Senior counsel Nozrul Islam Chowdhury argued for the plaintiffs. He was assisted by AM Aminuddin, ASM Abdul Mobin and Sarwar Ahmed.
Khandker Mahbub Hossain and SM Shahjahan appeared for the accused, while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Deputy Attorney General Khondker Diliruzzaman represented the government.
During yesterday's hearing, Nozrul told the SC citing the autopsy report that apart from various scars, 23 injury marks were found in Shazneen's body.
The size and the nature of the injury marks make it clear that Shazneen was attacked with two weapons. According to the seizure list, two weapons were used -- a white steel knife with black butt and an iron batali (a tool to make furniture) with wooden handle.
Through their testimonies, the witnesses have given proof of the recovery of the two weapons before the trial court, Nozrul said.
He argued that the use of two weapons and the 23 injury marks and scars proved the involvement of multiple accused in the incident of rape and killing.
The security light of Shazneen's house was switched off on the day of the incident. Accused Badal was responsible for the security light, he added.
Syed Sajjad Mainuddin Hasan, a contractor for renovating Shazneen's house, had engaged Badal for the renovation work, and Badal kept the security light switched off at the instructions of Hasan, the counsel said.
The fact of keeping the security light switched off has been proved before the trial court through the statements of 13th witness Moslem Hawlader, eighth witness Anisuzzaman Khan and 10th witness Ahmed Shafi Chowdhury.
The lawyer said accused Hasan had engaged accused Parvin as a maid of the house before the incident in presence of Shazneen's father Latifur Rahman.
Hasan had also appointed another accused Humayun (now dead) for renovation of the house, he said, adding that accused Estema Khatun Minu and Parvin are sisters.
It is therefore proved beyond doubt from the statements of witnesses, autopsy report, seizer list and circumstantial evidence that Shazneen was raped and then killed as part of a criminal conspiracy and at the instigation of Hasan, with indirect associations of other accused.
The six who were given the death penalty by the trial court are: contractor Hasan and his assistance Badal, domestic help Shahidul Islam Shahid, housemaids Estema and Parvin and carpenter Shaniram Mandal.
Eighteen years after the murder, a three-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by the chief justice, started hearing the appeals of the four convicts together on March 29. Two other members of the bench were Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice Mirza Hussain Haider.
On April 5, the chief justice reconstituted the bench, including Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana and Justice Md Imman Ali in it to make it a five-member bench. Yesterday, the bench kept the verdict waiting.
WAIT FOR JUSTICE FOR 18 YEARS
According to the case documents, Shazneen was brutally murdered at her house in the capital's Gulshan area on April 23, 1998.
The following day, her father Latifur Rahman filed a murder case with Gulshan Police Station under section 302 of the Penal Code. On September 4 the same year, the CID filed a case under Women and Children Repression [Prevention] Act for rape and murder.
After investigations, police submitted a charge sheet in the first case to the Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court-1 in Dhaka and another charge sheet in the second case to the Special Tribunal for Prevention of Women and Children Repression.
The courts framed charges in both the cases.
The accused challenged the indictment orders in both the cases before the High Court.
On July 6, 1999, the HC bench of Justice Mohammad Abdul Karim and Justice ABM Khairul Haque (who later became chief justice) ruled that the murder case against the accused pending with the Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court would be stayed because the Special Tribunal for Prevention of Women and Children Repression had already indicted the accused for killing.
The bench also gave the go-ahead to continue the case at the tribunal for murder and rape. In its verdict, the HC bench said rape and murder were two distinct and separate offences. It may be mentioned that the autopsy report of Shazneen clearly stated that she was raped before murder.
The accused challenged the HC verdict before the Appellate Division.
On November 11, 1999, a four-member Appellate Division bench, comprising the then Chief Justice Mustafa Kamal, Justice Latifur Rahman (who later became CJ), Justice AM Mahmudur Rahman and Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury (who later became CJ), rejected their appeal.
In its verdict, the SC said the HC rightly stayed all further proceedings of the case at the sessions judge's court and gave the go-ahead to proceed with the case at the tribunal.
It is such a case where murder was committed not during rape. “It is a clear case of rape and then murder. These are two distinct and separate offences. So the question of double jeopardy does not arise."
After getting the SC's approval, the tribunal went on with proceedings in the case.
After five years of court proceedings, Judge Kazi Rahmat Ullah of the Special Tribunal for Prevention of Women and Children Repression in Dhaka gave the verdict in the case on September 2, 2003.
The convicts then appealed to the HC against the tribunal verdict.
On July 10, 2006, the HC confirmed the death penalty of Hasan, Shahid, Badal, Minu and Parvin. It, however, acquitted Shaniram Mandal.
Later, four of the five accused -- Hasan, Badal, Minu and Parvin -- filed separate leave-to-appeal petitions, seeking permission for filing regular appeals against the HC verdict.
On April 26, 2009, the Appellate Division accepted their leave-to-appeal prayers.
Later, the four lodged appeals with the SC. Shahid also filed an appeal with the apex court through the jail authorities. Hearing of appeals ended yesterday.