The trial proceedings in two cases filed over a deadly grenade attack on an Awami League rally on the capital’s Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21 in 2004 have reached the final stage.
When the nation is set to recall with heavy hearts the 14th anniversary of the gruesome grenade attack, the counsel have hoped to complete the cases very soon.
Talking to the daily sun, they said the trial proceedings are now at the final stage and verdict will be delivered within one or two months.
Syed Rezaur Rahman, chief prosecutor in the cases, said, “We’re giving all possible efforts to complete the trials in the cases at the quickest possible time.”
He further said they have tried to complete the trials by August this year, but failed to do that as the defence has deliberately killed times following various techniques.
Law Minister Anisul Huq, however, said the verdict may come by September as placing the last defence arguments in the case before the court may end soon.
Mentioning that the trials in the cases are being conducted following all the laws of the country, he said the accused in the cases are getting all kinds of legal benefits.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could have given death penalty to the August 21 grenade attackers after a short trial within three days by forming a special tribunal. But she didn’t do that and waited for long 14 years for verdict,” he added.
According to the court sources, the makeshift Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 set up at a building near the gate of old Dhaka Central Jail is simultaneously holding the trials in the cases — one for the murder and another under the Explosive Substances Act.
Now the lawyers, on behalf of former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, one of the accused, are placing arguments in the cases.
The trial court fixed August 26, 27 and 28 for placing the rest of the arguments on behalf of Babar. Earlier, the defence lawyers, on behalf of 44 other accused, placed their arguments in the two cases.
After the end of arguments, the court will hear state lawyers in brief. Then, it will fix date for delivery of the verdict in the long-pending cases.
Earlier, the prosecution placed their arguments before the court, seeking maximum punishment for all the accused in the cases.
Before the start of placing arguments on October 23, 2017, the court recorded testimonies of 225 out of 511 prosecution witnesses (PWs) and 20 defence witnesses in the cases.
Legal experts said after the trial court verdict, the accused will get the opportunity to challenge the judgement in the High Court and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in phases. So, it will require more time for disposal of the appeals.
This means that there is still a long way to go to complete the trial conclusively. Until then, the surviving victims and the families of those killed will have to wait in agony for justice, they said.
Meanwhile, the heartrending incident still haunts victims of the incident. Many victims and their families are still waiting for justice and many of the wounded victims could not return to normal life and they are enduring the pain.
Former Dhaka University vice-chancellor Prof Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, also the chairman of ‘August 21 Bangladesh’, an organisation of the victims, said 14 years have passed but the trials in the cases are yet to be completed.
“We want the quick completion of the trials and severe punishment to attackers,” he added.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on June 11, 2008, submitted a charge-sheet in the case against 22 people, including chief of Bangladesh chapter of militant outfit Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami (huji) Mufti Abdul Hannan.
Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 on August 3, 2009, ordered further investigation, accepting a plea of the prosecution.
Later on in 2011, CID submitted two separate supplementary charge sheets in the cases against 30 people after a fresh investigation into the matter. With the 30, the number of charge-sheeted accused in the cases rose to 52.
During the BNP-Jamaat regime till October 2006, the investigators were trying to divert the probe to a wrong direction to save the real culprits. Media reports on the cooked-up story of Joj Mia was brought to public attention by the then CID officials’ attempt to derail the investigation.
The total number of the accused in the case was 52. Of them, three were executed in other cases as their names had been dropped. Of the 49 accused, 18 people, including BNP leader Tarique Rahman, are being tried in absentia, while 23 persons, including Babar, are in jail and eight accused are on bail.
The August 21 was one of the cruelest days in the political history of the country, as miscreants hurled 13 grenades at a rally of then opposition Awami League in the capital in 2004, leaving at least 24 people dead, including AL women affairs secretary Ivy Rahman, and scores injured.
It was just 5:22pm on August 21 in 2004. The Bangabandhu Avenue turned into a place of bloodstain as many people riddled with splinter wounds lay on the street.
AL president and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped the gruesome attack but suffered damage to the right ear.
According to the deposition and case documents, the perpetrators carried out the grenade attack when the BNP was in power and the then government put in all kinds of efforts to protect the masterminds behind the heinous attack, which was allegedly plotted to assassinate Sheikh Hasina.
The further probe in the cases revealed that the attack was an outcome of collaboration among militants, influential leaders of the BNP-Jamaat and a number of senior officials of the home ministry, police, DGFI, NSI and Hawa Bhaban.
Huji leaders met BNP leader Tarique Rahman a few days before the grenade attack and got the go-ahead to carry out the blasts. The then BNP-led administration did not pay attention to the international community’s pressure for a fair investigation into the incident, said the charge sheets.