Against the backdrop of several setbacks, including late commencement of trial proceedings, Joj Miah drama and Covid-19 situation, steps have been taken to start soon the hearing of the death references and appeals of the convicts in the two cases lodged over the barbaric grenade attack on an Awami League rally in capital's Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004.
"The proceedings of the two cases started a little late. Joj Miah drama was also staged. It took a long time to finish the trial in lower court. Now the proceedings are in the High Court, where the appeal hearing will start soon. I have talked to the attorney general in this regard," Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq said.
Echoing the law minister, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said the state has pleaded to the chief justice to hold hearing of the cases on priority basis and the chief justice will now fix a bench for this.
"The two cases, one for murder and another filed under Explosives Substances Act, are very important for us. The plotters behind the heinous crime had tried to destroy our democratic system through that unprecedented attack," he said.
The chief law officer of the state hoped that the hearing of the two cases would start soon and the prosecution would present all the legal arguments necessary to uphold the lower court judgments.
At least 24 people were killed and around 500 injured in the gruesome attack on an Awami League rally on the capital's Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004. Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, the then opposition leader in parliament, narrowly escaped the attack with severe ear injuries.
A Dhaka court on October 10, 2018, sentenced to death to 19 people including former state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar and awarded life imprisonment to another 19 including BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman in the murder case filed over that heinous incident.
The judge also made a 12-point observation on the background, motive and consequences of the attack, mainly targeting incumbent Prime Minister and the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, who narrowly escaped the assault sustaining wounds.
The death penalty convicts are: Lutfuzzaman Babar, Salam Pintu, Mawlana Tajuddin, intelligence officials Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury and Brigadier General Abdur Rahim, transport operator Md Hanif, militants Mowlana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed Bhat, Abdul Malek, Shawkat Osman, Mohibullah, Abu Sayeed, Abul Kalam Azad, Jahangir Alam, Hafez Abu Taher, Hossain Ahammed Tamim, Moin Uddin Sheikh, Rafikul Islam and Md Uzzal.
Other than Rahman, the political figures who were handed down life imprisonments are - ex-premier Khaleda Zia's the then political adviser Haris Chowdhury and former BNP lawmaker Qazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad.
The others to serve the life term are - militants Shahadat Ullah alias Jewel, Abdur Rouf, Sabbir Ahmed, Arif Hasan, Hafez Yahia, Abu Bokor, Ariful Islam, Mohibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Mohammad Iqbal, Liton, Shafikur Rahman, Abdul Hai and Ratul Ahmed Babu.
Assailants carried out the attack with military hardware "Arges grenades" on an anti-terrorism rally of the then main opposition Awami League while its president and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was visibly their prime target but she narrowly escaped the assault sustaining permanent hearing impairment.
Grenades were charged one by one towards the then opposition leader and incumbent premier Sheikh Hasina after finishing her speech as she stood on the makeshift stage on a truck.
Her security personnel and the party leaders and activists including the then Dhaka City mayor Mohammad Hanif, late Suranjit Sengupta, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, created a human shield risking their lives and saved the then opposition leader.
Around 5:40pm, after finishing her speech by saying her party's signature slogan "Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu", Sheikh Hasina moved to get off the truck, but she was halted by photojournalists requesting a photo.
At that moment, a grenade exploded right beside the stage, sending the crowd into a state of chaos. Immediately, the leaders on the truck made a human shield to protect her as at least 13 more grenades were thrown in the next two minutes.
A total of 24 AL leaders and workers including the then Mohila Awami League President and wife of late President Zillur Rahman, Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 500 others were injured in the monstrous attack.
Two separate cases, one for murder and another under Explosives Substances Act were filed on August 22, 2004, and the police on June 9, 2008 filed the charge sheet. The court on 29 September, 2008, framed charges in the cases.
Investigation Officer and also Additional Deputy Inspector General of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police on 2 July 2011, submitted a supplementary charge sheet before the court and the court on 18 March, 2012, framed charges afresh after taking the new charge sheet into cognizance.
The lower court on 27 November, 2018, sent 37,385 page case documents including the judgement to the High Court for further proceedings. The High Court on 13 January, 2019, accepted appeals filed by the convicts in the two cases filed over the 21 August grenade attack for hearing.