If you observe their activities, you would hardly believe they are at a court hearing.
They gossip with each other for hours and read newspapers, paying no heed to the legal procedures and the court decorum, said a lawyer, wishing not to be named.
Often, they move to the back of the courtroom and start saying their “unscheduled” prayers that continue for an “unusually” long period, without taking permission from the judge, he added.
In many cases, their lawyers also remain absent. When the time comes for the defence to cross-examine the witnesses, the judge finds no one and is forced to complete the procedure later.
These are common scenes at the hearings in the August 21 grenade attack cases, and many of the accused are employing these tactics apparently to delay the trial, added the lawyer.
Twenty-four people were killed in a grisly grenade attack on an Awami League rally on Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004. The cases were filed soon after.
Of the 52 accused, some 34, including the then home minister Lutfozzaman Babar, BNP leader Abdus Salam Pintu, Huji leaders Mufti Hannan and Moulana Sheikh Farid, and the then senior officials of Criminal Investigation Department Ruhul Amin and Munshi Atiqur Rahman, appear before the speedy trial tribunal, which is trying the cases, in Old Dhaka.
On a given date, the court usually sits in the morning.
Coming to the courtroom, the accused take their designated seats, and immediately start these “unusual” activities with an obvious air of nonchalance, said court sources.
Take Lutfozzaman Babar for an example.
He brings at least 10 newspapers with him to the courtroom. He at first goes through the papers, although reading newspapers during trial proceedings is prohibited, said another lawyer.
Around 11:30am, the former minister goes to the back of the courtroom and starts saying his “unscheduled” prayers, without taking permission from the judge.
In many cases, his lawyer was absent and the judge found no one in his defence when it was needed, obstructing the trial, said the lawyer.
Many other accused were doing the same as Babar, according to court sources.
The sources also said the accused had been resorting to these tactics in almost every hearing apparently to interrupt the trial.
"Though it is not the time for any scheduled prayers, yet they say prayers. Because they want to waste time," said a lawyer, preferring anonymity.
"Nobody dares to say anything since it's a religious matter," he added.