4 to die for killing Humayun Azad
Four members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were sentenced to death yesterday for killing Prof Humayun Azad 18 years ago.
In his observation, Judge Al Mamun of Dhaka's Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court said the murder of the acclaimed author was "shameful for the entire nation".
He also said militants carried out such attacks on people promoting free speech only to destabilise the country.
None from the family of the former Dhaka University academic nor his friends, followers, or colleagues was present in the courtroom yesterday. Neither were the family members of the convicted extremists.
The court also fined the four convicts Tk 50,000 each.
They are Salehin alias Salahuddin, Anwarul Alam alias Shahid, Mizanur Rahman alias Minhaz, and Nur Mohammad alias Shamim.
Shahid and Minhaz were present in the courtroom. The two others are absconding.
In her reaction to the verdict, Azad's elder daughter Mauli Azad said, "Although it's late, we're happy to finally get the verdict. We now want its quick execution."
She hoped that the verdict would be upheld by the High Court.
"We demand that the authorities catch the absconding killers immediately and bring them to book," she told The Daily Star last night.
Prof Azad was stabbed near Bangla Academy in the capital on February 27, 2004. He was attacked by militants while he was about to get on a rickshaw on his way to his university residence from the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela.
He was found dead at his apartment in Germany six months after the attack.
The charge sheet in the case, quoting the autopsy report, said the wounds from the attack resulted in the victim's death. Azad had gone to Germany on a research scholarship.
The attack on the author left a 15cm long, bone-deep gash in the front of his head, a 13cm long gash in his back, and a 22cm gash in the left part of the lower face, in addition to injuries to his arms, according to medical reports.
The skull was fractured and his brain tissue was bruised. He had no teeth left in his lower jaw, and had a few upper teeth. He was unable to close his left eye, and drooled constantly.
The trial dragged on for 18 years.
Upon hearing the verdict, convicts Minhaz and Shahid stood holding the bars of the lockup, staring at the judge. They looked impassive.
According to Minhaz's confessional statement, he was one of the two who hacked Prof Azad with machetes.
Shahid was armed with explosives in order to create a smokescreen to help all the attackers escape the scene.
Talking to this newspaper last week, Mauli Azad had said, "Many years have gone by. At first, we used to keep track of the case … I have given witness testimony myself. We had thought the case would get resolved quickly, but that was not the case."
Mauli narrated how every year, during his birth and death anniversaries, journalists would ask about the case's progress.
They would enquire about the proceedings, only to find it progressing at a snail's pace. The prosecution squarely put the blame for the delay on the challenges of producing witnesses before the court.
"We will get some sort of satisfaction after the verdict," Mauli had said.
They, however, will have to wait longer to see the verdict's execution. The judgement is likely to be challenged at the HC. Besides, two of the convicts are on the run.