August 21 grenade attack 2004: 17 years on, the road to justice not over yet
Final justice has yet to be delivered over the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally on the capital's Bangabandhu Avenue, even almost three years after a trial court found 49 people guilty.
A Dhaka court on October 10, 2018 sentenced 19 people, including former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar to death. Nineteen others, BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman included, were given life imprisonment.
Another 11 people were handed different prison terms in the two cases filed over the attack, considered one of the most sensational political crimes in the country's history, which left at least 24 people killed and 300 injured. Then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped death.
Eighteen of the convicted accused, including Tarique Rahman, who is in London, are absconding and 31 are in jail.
Execution of the capital punishment remains pending as the High Court has not yet started hearing on the death references and appeals by the 19 death-row convicts. The HC accepted the appeals more than two and a half years ago.
Under the law, all death penalties by trial courts must be confirmed by the HC before their execution.
The long delay in the hearing is partly due to the coronavirus pandemic that has forced the court to suspend much of the regular activities and to run virtually amid lockdowns, court sources said.
The compilation of documents -- trial proceedings, statements, evidence, orders and the verdict -- relating to the murder and explosives cases have reached the HC in August last year, clearing the way for the court to start the hearing.
The sources added 63 appeals had been filed by the convicts in connection with the cases and all of them are pending before the HC.
Last year, HC officials placed the relevant files before the chief justice for a decision. But he has yet to assign any High Court bench to start hearing the death references and the appeals, as the SC had to suspend regular activities amid surge in coronavirus contamination, the sources also said.
Contacted on August 16, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government had taken all necessary steps to prepare the paper books, which contain all the details of a trial, expeditiously for quick disposal of the cases.
"The paper books are ready now. The government will move an application before the High Court through the attorney general's office in the first week of September for fixing a date to start hearing of the death references and appeals in the cases," he told The Daily Star.
He said the culprits had carried out the attack to kill Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to frustrate the dream of building the "Sonar Bangla" envisioned by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
"Almighty Allah has saved her [Hasina]. The trial court has ensured justice in this case. I am hopeful that justice will be done in the High Court as well," he added.
Asked, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said his office would take initiatives for quick disposal of the cases as the court functions resumed.
The death references reached the HC on November 27, 2018, for examination of the trial court's verdict.
On January 13 next year, the HC accepted the appeals filed by the convicts. The same day, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman also stayed parts of the trial court verdict that fined the convicts.