Punishment of killers still a big question | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 29, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 29, 2008

Punishment of killers still a big question

The long wait for the High Court verdict in the Jail Killing Case finally ended yesterday, but the hope to see the perpetrators being punished is feared to remain unfulfilled.
The HC cleared all the four accused, who are behind bars, and two absconding ones, of the charges, while upheld the death sentence against another now on the run.
Though the trial court sentence of life term against eight absconding convict remains, they did not feel to turn up to appeal against it and stay fugitive.
Of those charge-sheeted for the grisly assassination of the four national leaders on November 3, 1975, the trial court acquitted five in its October 20, 2004 verdict and sentenced to death three and life imprisonment to 12.
Of the 12 facing life term, the HC yesterday acquitted four, who are in jail and appealed against the verdict. The punishment against the rest remains valid as they did not appeal.
"Implementation of the verdict remains impossible unless the absconding convicts surrender or are caught," chief state counsel Anisul Huq told The Daily Star yesterday.
If any of the absconding convicts even surrenders and wants to appeal against the HC verdict, the Appellate Division will have to settle first the delay petition, said defence lawyer Barrister Abdullah Al Mamun.
"If the Supreme Court allows such convicts to appeal [against the HC verdict], then their fate will be decided after its verdict," he added.
Mamun opined that the observation by both the trial court and the HC regarding "poor" investigation into such a historic case led to the failure to punish the real culprits.
In its verdict, the trial court blamed investigation officer Abdul Kahar Akand for faulty investigation and said all the killers could not be awarded capital punishment due to his negligence.
"Faulty investigation is the reason behind damaging the merit of the case," the judge said in his October 20, 2004 verdict, adding, "The IO did not investigate many important aspects, failed to prove many things including conspiracy behind the assassinations and presented faulty documents."
About four years later, Barrister Mamun, who was present in the court to receive the verdict yesterday, told The Daily Star, "The High Court also made the same observation in recognition to the trial court observation [regarding flawed investigation]."
"The High Court thinks the charges have been made not against the right persons," he added.
On the other hand, Anisul Huq blasted such an observation. "This is a lame excuse that the investigation officer could not investigate properly."
"Why didn't the court make any observation regarding delay in trial of such a historic case for 21 years? Why was no investigation done into it?" he asked.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Kahar yesterday said, "I did my investigation properly and pressed charges against those who appeared to be guilty on the basis of evidence available. And the court punished those who it felt were guilty. I haven't seen the court verdict and have nothing to say about it."
It is very unlikely that an IO would be able to perform his duty smoothly 21 years after an incident.
"Although the killings took place in November 1975, the investigation could not be launched until October 1996 for the Indemnity Ordinance. Moreover, there were attempts to destroy evidence of the case in the long course of time," he added.
Syed Nazrul Islam, acting president of the Bangladesh government in exile in 1971, Tajuddin Ahmed, prime minister, M Mansur Ali, finance minister, and AHM Qamaruzzaman, minister for home affairs, relief and rehabilitation, of the same government, were assassinated in Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975, only 79 days after usurpers in a desperate bid killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family on August 15.
Kazi Abdul Awal, the then deputy inspector general (prisons), filed a murder case in respect of the jail killings with Lalbagh Police Station the next day.
But the then government halted the trial process by promulgating an ordinance that indemnified the assassins. The investigation and trial of the killings remained blocked for about 21 years until the law was scrapped during the 1996-2001 rule of Awami League.
The trial was also delayed due to judicial tangles.

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