Conviction order of seven stayed by HC | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 18, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 18, 2008

Conviction order of seven stayed by HC

Major ruling delivered after graft convicts challenge legality of special court verdicts

The High Court (HC) in a major decision yesterday issued its first stay order on corruption convictions of seven people including three former state ministers, in separate cases filed during the caretaker government's anti-corruption drive.
The HC stayed for three months the convictions by trial courts of state ministers Iqbal Hassan Mahmood Tuku, Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin and Aman Ullah Aman, BNP leader Advocate Syeda Ashrafi Papiya, former BNP minister Mirza Abbas's wife Afroza Abbas, former BNP state minister Mir Nasir's son Mir Helaluddin, and Orion Group Chairman Obaidul Karim.
They were convicted and sentenced to different terms of imprisonment in cases filed by the government and Anti-corruption Commission (ACC).
Defence lawyers said the HC stayed the convictions on grounds of the ACC's filing of the cases and submitting of charge sheets being in contradiction with the law, and since many accused in similar cases had earlier been granted bail by the same court on similar grounds.
A bench officer of the HC bench concerned told reporters that the court also granted ad interim bail for three months to Mir Nasir, Tuku, and Afroza.
A vacation bench of the HC comprising Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Mamnoon Rahman issued the orders after hearing separate writ petitions filed earlier by the convicted challenging the legality of the trial court judgments.
The court also issued separate rulings upon the government, ACC, and the trial courts concerned to explain within four weeks why the trial proceedings of the cases and the convictions should not be declared illegal.
Mir Helal, who was convicted of abetting his father in amassing illegal wealth, was already released on bail by the HC on July 4 this year.
Meanwhile yesterday, responding to separate writ petitions, the same HC bench granted ad interim bail for three months to former BNP state ministers AKM Mosharraf Hossain and SM Zafrul Islam Chowdhury, to former BNP lawmakers Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Engr Manzurul Ahsan Munshi, Ariful Huq and Salauddin Ahmed, and to the Daily Janakantha Editor Atiqullah Khan Masud who are accused in separate corruption and extortion cases pending at trial courts.
The court also stayed for the same period the trial proceedings of the cases, and issued separate rulings upon the government and ACC to explain within four weeks why the initiation and continuation of the case proceedings against the petitioners should not be declared illegal.
During the hearing of Iqbal Hassan Mahmood Tuku's petition against his conviction, his counsel Barrister Ajmalul Hossain told the court that the ACC is comprised of all three commissioners, and according to the law, sanctions for filing cases and submitting charge sheets must be approved by the entire commission instead of individual commissioners.
He said filing of the case and submission of the charge sheet against his client was illegal, since those were not sanctioned by the entire commission.
He said since the filing of the case against his client was illegal, the trial proceedings and the conviction also become illegal.
Defence lawyers of the other petitioners told the HC that it recently granted bail to some accused in similar cases staying the case proceedings on similar grounds.
They argued that trial courts had convicted their clients, since they had not challenged the legality of the trial proceedings with the HC earlier.
Barrister Nasiruddin Ahmed Asim, a counsel for Mir Nasir and Mir Helal, told The Daily Star yesterday that some accused in corruption cases had been granted anticipatory bail by the HC as soon as they had appeared before the court immediately after retuning home from abroad.
"The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in a judgment in a case said the High Court may consider bail petitions by people convicted in corruption cases filed by the ACC under the emergency powers rules, if the appeals against the convictions are not adjudicated within 90 days of filing, if the convicted are seriously ill which is certified by medical boards, and if their jail sentences are of three years or less. The High Court considered the Appellate Division's guidelines and the arguments of the petitioners," Asim said.
He also said the HC will declare a final verdict in the writ petitions after hearing the government's and the ACC's reply to the rulings issued by it upon them to explain why the convictions by the trial courts should not be declared illegal.
"If the High Court declares illegal any of the convictions, that will become a precedent for other similar cases," he added.
On November 15 last year, a special anti-graft court sentenced Iqbal Hassan Mahmood Tuku to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and two years of simple imprisonment for amassing wealth illegally and for concealing information in his wealth statement.
On July 4, 2007, another anti-graft tribunal jailed Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin to 13 years of imprisonment on similar charges, while it sentenced his son Helal to three years in jail for abetting him in corruption.
A special court dealing with graft cases on June 21 last year sentenced former state minister Amanullah Aman to 10 years of rigorous and three years of simple imprisonment, and fined him Tk 10 lakh in a corruption case.
The Sixth Additional Sessions Judge's Court of Dhaka on May 8 this year sentenced Aman with another seven years of imprisonment in an extortion case.
Another special court sentenced Afroza Abbas to seven years of imprisonment in a tax evasion case filed by the National Board of Revenue (NBR), while Papiya was sentenced for five years in an extortion case.
Obaidul Karim was sentenced to 13 years and 5 years of imprisonment in two separate cases, in absentia, for amassing wealth illegally and for money laundering.
Advocate Khandker Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, Barrister Ahsanul Karim, Barrister Mahbubuddin Khokon, and Barrister AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik represented the petitioners.
Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan represented the ACC while Deputy Attorney General Syeda Afsar Jahan Ila and Assistant Attorney General Zafar Imam represented the government.

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