Today is horrifying August 21. The country, on this day 14 years ago, experienced one of the deadliest, barbaric and bizarre incidents in its history that stunned the whole nation.
Miscreants hurled grenades at a rally of the then opposition Awami League (AL) on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital on August 21, 2004 leaving at least 24 people dead, including AL’s women affairs secretary Ivy Rahman, and injuring scores others.
Awami League president and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped the brutal grenade attack, but she suffered serious damage to her right ear.
People of the country are still haunted by the August 21 grenade attack even after 14 years of the incident.
The perpetrators of the terrible grenade attack are still at large as the cases filed over the incident have been pending with the trial court.
The then BNP-Jamaat government staged ‘Joj Mia drama’ showing him (Joj Mia) the prime accused in a case filed over the grenade attack to protect the real culprits.
The ruling AL, its front organisations and different political, socio-cultural and professional organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes to observe the day.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to place wreaths at a makeshift altar on Bangabandhu Avenue at 10:00am.
The party alleged that the BNP-Jamaat alliance government had carried out the grenade attack to kill Sheikh Hasina to make the party leaderless.
The incident took place on Saturday. Sheikh Hasina attended the party rally as the chief guest. After the rally, an anti-violence procession was supposed to be brought out. Miscreants started hurling grenades soon after she (Sheikh Hasina) finished her speech with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’.
AL leaders and activists and common people got stunned when grenades exploded at the political gathering, killing at least 16 party activists on the spot.
Ivy Rahman, wife of late President Zillur Rahman, succumbed to her injuries after fighting for 58 hours at a hospital.
Party leaders and activists started screaming and made human shield to save Sheikh Hasina’s life.
Her private security personnel Mahbubur Rahman sacrificed his life while trying to save Sheikh Hasina.
Many AL leaders, including Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Kazi Zafarullah, Abdul Latif Siddique, Obaidul Quader, Sahara Khatun, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Maj Gen (Rtd) Tareq Ahmed Siddique, AFM Bahauddin Nasim and Pankaj Debnath, escaped death, but still haunted over the gruesome incident as they have been living life with splinter injuries.
A total of 52 accused persons, including BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman and the then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar are now facing trial in connection with the August 21 grenade attack case.
Of the charge sheeted accused, 18 are still believed to be hiding abroad amid government efforts to bring them back.
The government filed two cases — one for the murder and the other under the Explosive Substances Act.
Both the cases are now under trial at a makeshift court at a building near the gate of previous Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road.
The Chief Prosecutor in the August 21 grenade attack cases, advocate Syed Rezaur Rahman said: “Eighteen of 52 charge-sheeted accused in the August 21, 2004 grenade attack cases, have been shown fugitives, eight are on bail while 26 others are now in different jails.”
The government is trying to bring back 18 fugitives in the cases to the country through Interpol, he said.
Intelligence sources, however, said the most wanted accused in the cases, BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman is now staying in London, Maulana Tajuddin Ahmed and his younger brother Ratul Babu are hiding in South Africa.
Former BNP lawmaker Kazi Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad is hiding in Saudi Arabia and Haris Chowdhury moves through the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, the USA and India.
One of the key accused in the cases, former minister and Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed was hanged to death in a case of crime against humanity during the War of Liberation in 1971 while the chief of banned militant outfit Harkatul Jihad, Mufti Abdul Hannan, and Shahidul Alam Bipul were hanged in the another case of terrorism.
Two other major suspects--former Major General ATM Amin and former Lt Colonel Saiful Islam Joarder are now staying in Dubai.
Besides, Mohibul Mustakin and his brother Anisul Mursalin are now in Tihar Jail in India. Militant leaders Shafikur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai, Maulana Abu Bakar, Iqbal, Khalilur Rahman, Jahangir Alam alias Badar, Maulana Liton alias Zobair alias Delwar, the then deputy commissioner (east) and deputy commissioner (south) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Obaidur Rahman and Khan Syed Hasan respectively are also staying abroad, the sources said.
Chief Prosecutor Syed Rezaur Rahman said the trial is at the final stage as the defence is placing arguments in favour of Babar.
“With the completion of the defence argument, the court will hear from the state side in brief. Afterwards, the court will fix the date for the verdict,” he said.
Law minister Anisul Huq on Sunday said that the court would deliver the verdict in September.
A total of 225 out of 511 prosecution witnesses gave their depositions before the court of Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 in the cases.
Eight of the 52 accused are now on bail while 24 others, including former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, are behind bars.
On the eve of the day, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages.