Dhaka: Dhaka 1st Speedy Trial Tribunal has sentenced 19 people to death, including former BNP state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar and 19 others, including BNP acting Chairman Tarique Rahman to life imprisonment, in one case filed over the gruesome August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004.
Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 has pronounced the verdict around 12:25pm after a long wait for over 14 years.
Former BNP deputy minister for Education Abdus Salam Pintu was also awarded death sentence while Haris Chowdhury and Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad got life imprisonment in the case.
Earlier this morning, Abdus Salam Pintu and BNP state minister for home Lutfozzaman were brought to the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 set up at Old Dhaka’s Nazimuddin Road from Kashimpur Central Jail in Gazipur in three prison vans.
On September 18, a speedy trial tribunal here in the capital had fixed October 10 to deliver its verdict in the cases. The tribunal fixed the date after conducting hearing the concluding arguments while the hearing of the two cases have taken place simultaneously at Dhaka 1st Speedy.
The prosecution had started placing arguments before the tribunal in connection with the two cases on October 23 last year.
The grenade attack was carried out on an anti-terrorism rally arranged by Awami League at Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital during the BNP-Jamaat alliance’s rule, aiming to kill then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2004.
In the grisly attack, at least 24 leaders and activists, including AL’s women affairs secretary and late President Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 300 others received injuries.
Two cases — one under the Explosive Substances Act and another for murder — were filed in connection with the grenade attack later. On June 11, 2008, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted a charge-sheet against 22 people in the case.
Sources said the re-trial in the two cases was started concurrently in March 2012 while the prosecution produced 225 witnesses to prove the charges with the defence produced 20.
According to the case statement, fifty-two people were held accused in the case while prosecution suggested an influential quarter of the then BNP regime, including party’s senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman, masterminded the shocking plot engaging militant outfit HuJI and subsequently made a desperate attempt to protect the assailants.
Mufti Abdul Hannan, executed leader of militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (Huji) and his associate Sharif Shahedul Alam Bipul were also an accused in the cases. They were executed in a case filed for attacking the then UK high commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury.
The grenade attack on Awami League rally was allegedly the outcome of a criminal conspiracy which was finalized at the residence of the then deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu with Tarique Rahman giving the ultimate authorization, according to the prosecution.
The persons who are now fugitive in the cases are- Tarique Rahman, Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, Mohammad Hanif, Maj Gen (retd) ATM Amin, Lt Col (retd) Saiful Islam Joarder, Babu alias Ratul Babu, Anisul Morsalin, Mohibul Muttakin, Maulana Tajuddin, Shafikur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai, Maulana Abu Bakar, Iqbal, Khalilur Rahman, Jahangir Alam alias Badar, Maulana Liton alias Zobair alias Delwar, Md Obaidur Rahman, Khan Syed Hasan, Harris Chowdhury.