August 21 Attack: Justice in long wait
12:00 AM, August 21, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:35 AM, August 21, 2016

Justice in long wait

Verdict likely towards year end

On this day 12 years ago, an attack was carried out to annihilate the top leadership of a major political party.

Some influential leaders of the then BNP-led government allegedly hatched the plan to eliminate their political archrival Awami League. They engaged Islamist militants to execute it, according to the charge sheet of the case.

The attack left 24 AL leaders and activists dead in the afternoon of August 21, 2004.

The assailants, however, failed to get its prime target -- Sheikh Hasina. She survived the attack narrowly after some of her party leaders protected her by forming a human shield around her.

That August afternoon perhaps changed politics of Bangladesh forever. 

But, the state has not yet been able to provide justice to the victims.

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said the trial in the grenade attack case was at the final state. He also hoped that the verdict would be delivered soon.

Asked, chief state counsel in the case, Syed Rezaur Rahman, also said the trial was now at the last stage and it would be complete soon.

The court could record statements of 224 witnesses till this August 17 after the trial began in 2008. The total number of witnesses in the case is 491.

Rezaur said the cross-examination of an investigation officer in the case, Fazlul Kabir, was underway and it would end this month. After that, another investigation officer, Abdul Kahar Akond, would be cross-examined. He would also be the last witness of the prosecution, said the state counsel.

Statements of the other witnesses would not be recorded, he added.

Considering the present status of the case, some lawyers, indicate that the trial court, dealing with the case, may deliver the verdict at the end of this year.

However, the delivery of the verdict would lead to further legal processes.

Once convicted, the accused will have the opportunity to challenge the verdict in the High Court and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in phases.

After the appeals are over, an accused may also file a review petition with the Appellate Division. It will require more time for the disposal of the pleas.

This means there is still a long way to go to complete the trial conclusively, in order to provide the victims and their families with justice, according to legal experts.

Till then, surviving victims and the families of those killed will be waiting in agony for justice.

EFFORTS MADE TO DERAIL INVESTIGATION

The grisly grenade attack happened during the BNP in power and the attackers left the venue without any difficulty. 

After grave concerns expressed by world leaders and international pressure, the then BNP government allowed agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Interpol to visit Dhaka to assist the probe.

After the attack, the BNP launched a campaign blaming the AL itself for carrying out the attack on its own rally.

Through several investigations, the BNP-led alliance government tried to establish that the AL had killed its own activists to tarnish the government's image and to topple it.

As a part of the plan to put the blame on the AL, the investigators made up a story involving Mokhlesur Rahman, an AL leader and former ward commissioner of Moghbazar, in the city.

On the instructions of the government high-ups, they also attempted to feed the public with another story woven around Joj Mia, a petty criminal. They forced Joj Mia to make a confessional statement naming Mokhlesur as one of the plotters. The whole story turned out to be fabrications by investigators.

Through a judicial commission-led by a Supreme Court judge, it even tried to prove that "foreign enemies" had instigated the carnage, and some wanted criminals hiding in India had taken part in the attack, according to the charge sheet.

Things took a different turn during the past caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed. A new Criminal Investigation Department official was given charge in July 2007 for fresh investigation into the carnage.

On June 11, 2008, the CID submitted charge sheet accusing 22, including Huji leader Mufti Hannan and former deputy minister of the BNP government Abdus Salam Pintu. The charge sheet hinted at the involvement of some government and security high ups in the plot.

After AL came to power, the prosecution filed a petition on June 22, 2009 with the court for further investigation to identify the suppliers of Arges grenades and sources of financing. The court on August 3, 2009, ordered for further investigation. Then a new CID official was assigned to do the job.

In July 2011, the CID submitted the supplementary charge sheet. According to the supplementary charge sheet the grisly attack was an outcome of collaboration between the militant outfit Huji, a section of influential leaders of the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami, and a section of senior officials of the home ministry, police, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), National Security Intelligence (NSI) and Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Lutfozzaman Babar, then state minister for home affairs, Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to then prime minister Khaleda Zia, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, secretary general of Jamaat and the then social welfare minister, NSI director general Brig Gen Abdur Rahim and DGFI director Brig Gen Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury masterminded the attack, according to the supplementary charge sheet. Involvement of Tarique Rahman was also alleged in the supplementary charge sheet.

Jamaat leader Mojaheed was dropped from the charge after his execution in a war crimes case in November 2015.

According to the supplementary charge sheet, Huji leader Tajuddin, supplier of the grenades and brother of BNP government's deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, was allowed to leave the country for Pakistan on instructions from Lutfozzaman Babar. The then PM Khaleda Zia was aware of this, according to the charge sheet.

Tajuddin was provided with a fake passport with the name “Badal”. Khaleda's nephew and private secretary Saiful Islam Duke, his brother-in-law and the then DGFI official Lt Col Saiful Islam Joarder, and another the then DGFI high-up Maj Gen ATM Amin helped Tajuddin flee the country on October 10, 2006, at the fag end of the BNP's rule, said the supplementary charge sheet in March 2011.

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