Harris jailed for 3 years in fast-track graft court
An anti-graft tribunal sentenced Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to former prime minister Khaleda Zia, to three years' imprisonment for not submitting wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). This is the first judgment by any of the special courts set up at the MP Hostel in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar for quick disposal of the corruption cases. The Fifth Special Court of Judge Ashraf Hossain in its decision said, "The sentence shall take effect from the date of his arrest or surrender before the court." Harris, also joint secretary general of the BNP, has been on the run since the present caretaker government took over on January 12. He did not even employ a lawyer to defend him. The ACC filed the case against him on April 5 with a Dhaka court that issued a warrant for his arrest the same day. It framed the charge against him on April 30 and transferred the case to the special court on May 6. The anti-graft body is preparing to file another graft case against the BNP leader in flight. Investigation to that end is almost complete and the case could be filed within the next 15 days, said sources at the ACC and the task force formed to combat crime and corruption. --The Daily Star, May 22.
Writ petition against CG's validity rejected
The High Court (HC) rejected a writ petition challenging the validity of the current caretaker government. A division bench comprising Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman and Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury rejected the petition, as it was not pressed by the counsel for the petitioner. On May 6, Josne Ara Chowdhury, wife of Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to former prime minister Khaleda Zia, filed the writ challenging the validity of the current caretaker government. Before rejecting the petition, the court inquired about details of the petitioner whether she was a Bangladeshi citizen, voter and taxpayer, but the counsel, Syed Golam Mostafa, failed to satisfy the court. --Unb, Dhaka, May 23.
Shahriar Kabir, 4 others discharged of sedition charge
A Dhaka court relieved writer-columnist Shahriar Kabir, two journalists of British Channel 4 and four others of sedition charges filed against them five years ago. After scrutinising the case docket (CD) and other relevant documents, Metropolitan Magistrate Mir Ali Reza accepted the final report and discharged them from the charges. On May 17, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police submitted a probe report exonerating Shahriar Kabir and six others. CID Inspector Masud Karim, also the investigation officer (IO) of the case, submitted the final report before the Court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM), Dhaka. The other six accused in the case are British journalist Zaiba Naz Malik, Italian journalist Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino, social welfare activist Pricilla Raj, freelance journalist Saleem Samad, Tofael Ahmed and advocate Rana Das Gupta. On November 25, 2002, police arrested the two Channel 4 journalists on sedition charges while they were crossing into India from Bangladesh through the Benapole border in Jessore. The two foreign journalists came to Bangladesh to film a current affairs programme for Channel 4 about the reported al-Qaeda presence in Bangladesh. -- The Daily Star, may 23.
No chance for military involvement in politics-Lt Gen Moeen
Army chief Lt Gen Moeen U Ahmed said power takeover by the military or their getting involved in politics is out of the question as the army is not the "proper institution" to run the government. Moeen also reiterated the army's full commitment to press freedom and journalists' right to report freely. "The army respects the free press and takes its suggestions very seriously and often acts on them," he told newspaper editors at a meeting at his office. He said he wants elections and restoration of an elected government as early as possible. If the army wanted to take power, they could do it during the chaotic period following October 28 [last year] when there were many such occasions. "But we have resisted all temptations because we do not want to be involved in politics or run the government...The army is not the proper institution for governing the country," said the chief of army staff. "We would like to see a competent, honest and committed leadership to run the country in future," he added.The Daily Star, May 24.
EC now mulls door-to-door voter info collection
The Election Commission (EC) is now actively considering sending its enumerators to door-to-door visits for collecting the particulars of prospective voters to start preparing simultaneously the voter list with photographs and national identity cards from August. Citizens eligible for being registered as voters however will have to visit the voter registration centres to have their photographs taken at their conveniences. The enumerators will distribute voter registration forms in advance by going from door to door to expedite the process and to encourage eligible citizens to visit the centres. Besides, the EC is drafting a proposal for bringing amendments to the existing electoral ordinance and rules, with a stringent provision against any act discouraging eligible citizens to be registered as voters. Discouraging eligible people to be registered as voters will become a punishable offence with a maximum of one-year imprisonment and fines, if the proposed amendments become part of the law, sources said. In its original plan, the number of registration centres was about 50,000 but it will be about one lakh now, as the EC specified every voters' area will have a registration centre. -- The Daily Star, May 25.
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