A speedy trial tribunal sentenced on Wednesday 19 persons, including former state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar and former deputy minister for education Abdus Salam Pintu, to death while 19 others, including BNP acting Chairman Tarique Rahman, to life imprisonment in two cases filed over the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004, report agencies.
Besides, 11 persons were awarded different terms of jail in the sensational cases, said Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal. Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 at Old Dhaka's Nazimuddin Road pronounced the verdict around 12:13 pm after a long wait for over 14 years.
The others who were awarded death penalty are then DGFI Director Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, then NSI's Brigadier General (retd) Abdur Rahim, Mohammad Hanif, Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed, Maulana Shawkat Osman, Mahibullah alias Mafizur Rahman, Maulana Abu Taher, Maulana Abu Sayeed, Mohammad Jahangir Alam, Abul Kalam Azad, Mainuddin Sheikh alias Abu Zandal, Ujjal alias Ratan, Hossain Ahmed Tanim, Sheikh Abdus Salam and Abdul Malek.All of the condemned convicts were also fined Tk 0.1 million each.
The other lifers are Shahadat Ullah alias Jewel, Maulana Abdur Rauf, Sabbir Ahmed, Tarik Hasan Sumon, Hafez Maulana Yeahia, Abu Bakkar, Ariful Islam, Mahibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Iqbal, Liton, then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's political secretary Abul Harris Chowdhury, Shah Moazzem Hossain Kaikobad, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hye and Ratul Ahmed.
They were also fined Tk 50,000 each and in case of failure to pay the penalty, they will have to serve one more year in jail. The tribunal sentenced former IGPs Ashraful Huda and Khuda Baksh Chowdhury, Shahidul Haque, Lt Commander (retd) Saiful Islam Duke, Lt Colonel (retd) Saiful Islam Zoardar, Major General (retd) ATM Amin, ex-DIG Khan Sayeed Hasan, former police supers Obaidur Rahman Khan and Ruhul Amin, ASPs Abdur Rashid and Musnhi Atiqur Rahman to two years' imprisonment. They were also fined Tk 50,000 each, in default, to suffer six months more in jail.
Of the convicts, Tarique Rahman, Mursalin, Mahibul, Khalil, Jahangir, Iqbal, Liton, Harris Chowdhury, Kaikobad, Shafiqur, Abdul Hye, Ratul, Saiful Islam, ATM Amin and Sayeed Hasan were tried in absentia. Talking to reporters after the verdict,
PP Kajal said they sought death penalty for Tarique Rahman in the cases. "We'll appeal against the judgment with the higher court," he said. Kajal said the fugitives will be brought to justice.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer Sanaullah Mia said they were disappointed at the verdict. He claimed that Tarique Rahman is innocent.
Replying to a query, Sanaullah said the verdict against Tarique will be challenged once he returns home.
Of the charge-sheeted accused, Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, and militant leaders Mufti Abdul Hannan and Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul-were dropped from the cases as they had been executed after convictions in other cases. Thirty-one accused, including Babar and Salam, were produced before the tribunal from a Gazipur jail before the delivery of the verdict.
They were brought to the tribunal from Kashimpur Central Jail in Gazipur in three prison vans around 11:20am.
AL not fully satisfied over 21 Aug attack verdict: Quader
Meanwhile, Awami League (AL) General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said his party is not fully satisfied over the verdict as the mastermind of the attack BNP's acting vice-chairman Tarique Rahman was not awarded death penalty.
"We are not fully unhappy and also not fully satisfied over the verdict as the mastermind of the gruesome attack Tarique Rahman was not awarded capital punishment," he told journalist in his first reaction over the verdict.
The prime target of the horrible attack was the then opposition leader and incumbent Prime Minister Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina, Quader said, adding that the plan of the attack was mapped out from the Hawa Bhaban.
One of the important accused for the attack Mufti Hannan acknowledged in his confessional statement before the court that permission for carrying out the attack was taken from Tarique Rahman.
The verdict, however, over the grenade attack has come after 14 years while it emerged as a topic of public discussion and criticism over the whole time, he said.
Meanwhile, BNP turned down on Wednesday the verdict in the August 21 grenade attack cases, saying it has been given at the 'behest of the government' with a political motive.
"BNP thinks that the verdict is a politically motivated one. It's a naked manifestation of satisfying the government's political vengeance," said BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Speaking at a press conference at the BNP's Nayapaltan central office, he further said, "We reject the dictated verdict."
Fakhrul also said the government has set another bad example of taking political revenge using the court as they did it by convicting BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia in a 'false' case in the past.
He alleged that though their party Senior Vice-chairman Tarique Rahman had no involvement in the grenade attack incident, he was given life imprisonment in the cases. "It has proved that no citizen of the country has now the scope of getting justice."
Under the circumstances, Fakhrul called on the people to become alert about the government's 'vindictive attitude and its foul strategy of using court'. "We also urge people to get united to wage a movement to establish a pro-people government by ousting the current unelected one."
He said they will carry out different political programmes against the verdict alongside taking legal measures.
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said the prosecution could not present any straightforward document and witness before the court to prove Tarique Rahman's involvement in the incident. "Despite this, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for making political gains."
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