A tribunal in Dhaka yesterday framed charges against eight alleged militants in the Gulshan cafe attack case and set December 3 for starting the trial with recording of the complainant's testimony.
Six of the accused pleaded not guilty and demanded justice after Judge Majibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal of Dhaka read out the charges to them.
They are Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, recruiter of the café attackers; Rashed alias Rash, one of the planners; Sohel Mahfuz, supplier of grenades; Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan and Hadisur Rahman Sagor, suppliers of arms; and Rakibul Islam, so-called religious trainer. All of them are behind bars.
The tribunal also issued arrest warrants for the two other accused, Shariful Islam Khaled and Mamunur Rashid Ripon, who are on the run.
On July 1, 2016, armed militants stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in the capital's Gulshan and killed 20 hostages, mostly foreign nationals. Two police officials were also killed during the 12-hour standoff. Police held home-grown militant group “Neo JMB” responsible for the country's worst ever terrorist attack.
On July 23 this year, Inspector Humayun Kabir of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit submitted charge sheet to the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Dhaka, accusing the eight and naming 211 people as prosecution witnesses. Humayun is also the investigating officer of the case.
Yesterday, the court asked the accused to appoint defense lawyers. But the accused said no lawyer wanted to defend them.
The tribunal then advised them to seek help from legal aid organisations.
According to the charge sheet, “Neo JMB” militants had planned the attack for six months. Their intention was to create “unrest” in Bangladesh and turn it into a “terrorist state”.
Despite being involved in the attack, 13 other “militants” were not named in the charge sheet as they were killed in encounters with law enforcers at different places in the country.
The five gunmen, who held diners hostage and got killed, are Nibrash Islam, Mir Sabeh Mubashir, Rohan Imtiaz, Khairul Islam Payel and Shafiqul Islam Uzzal.
The eight killed in other operations are Tamim Chowdhury; Sarwar Jahan, a top operative of mainstream JMB and financier; Nurul Islam Marzan, a Chittagong University student and café attack coordinator; Jahidul Islam, a retired major and trainer; Basharuzzaman Chocolate, a software engineer; Abu Raihan Tarik, a top operative; Tanvir Kaderi, a banker and financier; and Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan, supplier of grenades.
The investigators, however, didn't name former private university teacher Hasnat Reza Karim in the charge sheet as they found no evidence against him after analysing accounts from witnesses and arrested “militants”.
Hasnat, who along with his family members went to the café on the day of the attack to have dinner on his daughter's birthday, was arrested on August 3, 2016 and later made an accused in the case.
After submission of the charge sheet in the case, the jail authorities released him as per the court's order.