Prosecution demands highest punishment
The prosecution yesterday sought the highest punishment for BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman and 48 other accused in the August 21 grenade attack cases.
Syed Rezaur Rahman, chief prosecutor of the cases, made the prayer while wrapping up his closing argument at the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 in Dhaka.
“We, the prosecution, have been able to prove the charges brought against the accused beyond any reasonable doubt through the testimonies of impartial and non-interested witnesses and other documentary and circumstantial evidence,” Rezaur said.
“We are praying for highest and exemplary punishment for the accused as per the law so that the litigants get justice.”
Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the tribunal set today for hearing the defence arguments, when state-appointed lawyer Chaitanya Chandra Halder for Mohammad Hanif, a fugitive accused and owner of Hanif Paribahan, will place his arguments.
The prosecution on December 27 completed their closing arguments on facts. Yesterday, Rezaur took around two hours to complete his submissions to the makeshift court set up at a building on the city's Nazimuddin Road. He was assisted by several lawyers, including Akram Uddin Shyamol and Farhana Reza.
Twenty-four leaders and activists of the Awami League and its associate bodies were killed and over 300 others suffered splinter injuries in the August 21 attack on an AL rally in 2004.
Many of the injured became crippled for life while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader, narrowly escaped the attack with ear injuries.
Of the 49, eight accused, including three former inspector generals of police, are now on bail while 18, including Tarique, have been absconding.
Twenty-three accused, including former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar and ex-deputy minister for education Abdus Salam Pintu, now behind bars, were produced before the court yesterday.
The highest punishment for criminal conspiracy is death.
Rezaur said a total of 225 prosecution witnesses, including 46 victims, gave testimonies and produced a lot of documentary evidence to prove the charges.
He said the accused got involved in the criminal conspiracy to carry out the gruesome attack and implemented their plans to leave the AL and pro-liberation forces without leadership by killing Hasina and other top leaders of the party.
The attack was carried out so that banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (Huji) can run their activities without any hindrance; and Kashmir, Pakistan and Myanmar-based militant organisations -- Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehreek-e-Jihadi Islam and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation -- can use Bangladesh as a route for transporting arms and ammunition for their activities, the lawyer told the court.
According to the chief prosecutor, the purpose of the attack was to ensure rise of the BNP-Jamaat alliance.
He said at least 40 accused, including Tarique, elder son of former prime minister Khaleda Zia, held several meetings in 2000, 2003, early in 2004 and in August that year at different places in the city, including Hawa Bhaban, to orchestrate the attack.
The Hawa Bhaban, then political office of the BNP chairperson, was widely considered as the alternative centre of power during the tenure (2001-2006) of the BNP-Jamaat government.
Rezaur said as per the decisions and plans drawn up in the meetings, at least 12 accused, who were holding administrative posts as ministers, police and detective officials, gave administrative and financial support to the attackers.
They also refrained from carrying out their duties to ensure necessary security for the AL meeting on Bangabandhu Avenue and didn't give information even though they were aware of the attack beforehand, the lawyer added.
He said three unexploded grenades were recovered from the scene, but Tarique, Lutfozzaman Babar and the accused police and detective officials destroyed those grenades without taking permission from the court.
They destroyed the evidence to save the real culprits, he said, adding that the accused did not allow the victims' family members to file cases. Instead, they filed a case through a policeman to save the culprits, he said.
To divert the incident to a different direction, the accused forced several people, including Joj Mia, to give false confessional statements and attempted to implicate 28 innocent people with the attack, the chief prosecutor told the court.
Babar and several other accused helped Tajuddin, an accused who supplied grenades, to leave the country with a fake passport, Rezaur said, adding that the accused performed their duties as per the criminal conspiracy hatched in those meetings.
After the attack, a case was filed with Motijheel Police Station on August 22, 2004.
But the CID submitted two charge sheets, one for hatching criminal conspiracy and killing and another for supplying and using grenades. The second charge sheet was filed under the Explosive Substances Act.
During the BNP-Jamaat rule until October 2006, the investigators were out to misdirect the probe to protect the real culprits, according to the prosecution.
During the tenure of the last caretaker government, charge sheets in the two cases were filed against 22 people, including Abdus Salam Pintu and 21 Huji men, including Mufti Hannan.
However, the investigators could not identify the mastermind and the sources of the grenades used in the attack, the prosecution said.
A further probe into the cases was launched in 2009 to find out the source of the grenades.
A supplementary charge sheet was submitted against 30 accused, including Tarique, Lutfozzaman Babar and former Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, in July 2011.
In March 2012, the tribunal indicted 52 accused, including Tarique, on murder charges while 41 accused were indicted in the case filed under the Explosive Substances Act.
The 11 other accused in the murder case were not implicated in the explosive case. They include three former IGPs, three ex-CID officials, two former senior police officials, Khaleda's nephew Duke, and two former army officers ATM Amin and Saiful Islam Joarder.
The court conducted the two cases simultaneously.
Jamaat leader Mojaheed has already been executed for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War while Mufti Hannan and another Huji man were executed in the case filed over the grenade attack on former British high commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Chowdhury in Sylhet.
Their names were dropped from the cases.