Justice eludes victims for 29 yrs

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Attack on Hasina’s motorcade in Ctg

Justice eludes victims for 29 yrs

Shamsuddin Illius, Chittagong

Publication Date: 24 January, 2017

Media: The Independent

Original URL : Justice eludes victims for 29 yrs

E-paper  URL: Justice eludes victims for 29 yrs


Twenty-nine years have passed since the gruesome attack on the motorcade of Sheikh Hasina in Chittagong that killed 24 people, but the trial in the case is yet to be completed. The attack on the Awami League (AL) president had taken place in the port city’s Laldighi ground area in 1988 during HM Ershad’s regime.

Given the long delay in getting justice, the victims’ families have blamed the prosecution for a tardy trial. Till date, the prosecution could only manage to produce 41 witnesses out of the total 168 in court to record their statements, they said. The prosecution had spent 16 years to present a witness in court from 1999 till 2015. Earlier, the prosecution lawyers blamed the BNP-led government for the setback, but they are now blaming each other.

In the meantime, many of those associated with the case have died. They include plaintiff Md Shahidul Huda, accused constable Bashir Uddin, and the last investigation officer, assistant superintendent of police Abdul Kader. Several witnesses including Abdul Wahub, AL leaders Ataur Rahman Khan Kaiser, MA Manan, Abdur Razzak, Abdul Jalil and Akhtaruzzaman Babu, have also passed away.

“As many as 29 years have passed, but we are yet to get justice. This is due to the negligence of the prosecution,” said Abul Manjur, brother of victim Hasan Murad.

“The attackers had tried to kill Sheikh Hasina. Since she has become the Prime Minister, we urge her to take steps to get us justice,” he added. Rallying for early disposal of the case, Nirupam Dasgupta, journalist and writer of Chattagram Gonohatta: Prottokhodorshir Jobanbondhi (Chittagong Genocide: Eyewitness Testimony), told The Independent: “All the accused are policemen. One of the accused is still absconding. The others have been freed on bail. While the victims’ relatives are still waiting for justice for over 29 years elusive, the accused, freed on bail, are enjoying their life for over 29 years now.”

Dasgupta said it was ridiculous that the Sheikh Hasina-led AL had formed the government three times, but did not bother to take any information from the victims’ kin.

The case is under trial at the Chittagong divisional special judge’s court now. Earlier, it was being heard in the Chittagong first additional metropolitan sessions judge’s court.

“The delay in the case is due to the prosecution’s failure. While the case was being heard in the previous court, no witness could be produced,” said advocate Mesbah Uddin Chowdhury, public prosecutor (PP) of the divisional special judge’s court.

“After the case’s transfer to this court, six witnesses have given their statements on the scheduled dates. If the recording of the witnesses’ depositions continue in such a manner, the case is expected to be completed soon,” he added.

“The Prime Minister, AL leaders Tofail Ahmed and Amir Hossain Amu are also witnesses in the case. The process is on to present them as witnesses as well,” the PP said.

Striking a contrary note, advocate Ashok Kumar Das, additional PP of the Chittagong first additional session judge’s court, said, “The delay was not due to our negligence. Time had lapsed to find out the key witnesses in the case. We tried to identify the doctor who had conducted the post-mortem.”

The incident dates back to January 24, 1988, while Sheikh Hasina was going to a meeting at Laldigi ground. Policemen had suddenly started firing indiscriminately on her motorcade, killing 24 people and wounding over 200. After the fall of the Ershad regime on March 5, 1992, the late advocate Shaidul Huda had filed a case in Chittagong chief metropolitan magistrate’s court on behalf of the victims. The then Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) commissioner, Mirza Rakibul Huda, was accused of ordering the attack. The court, however, rejected the case as the accused were government employees. Later, the plaintiffs’ lawyer filed a revision case with the High Court (HC), which ordered the CID to submit a report on the investigation.

The widely discussed case was revived when the AL government came to power in 1996. The CID had submitted two charge-sheets on January 12, 1997 and November 3, 1998, indicting Huda and seven policemen. The other accused were then CMP commissioner JC Mandal, then patrol inspector (PI) of Kotwali zone, Constables Abdus Salam, Musfiqur Rahman, Pradip Barua, Bashir Uddin, Md Abdullah and Mamotaz Uddin.

On October 22, 1997, the first-phase deposition of plaintiff was recorded, and till August 14, 2000, the court had recorded deposition of 19 witnesses.

When the BNP was in power from May 17, 2001 to August 23, 2006, the depositions of only two witnesses were recorded. During the time of Army-backed caretaker government from February 6, 2007 to February 7, 2008, 13 witnesses had deposed in court within a year. When the AL came back to power in 2009, the court recorded the statement of the investigation officer of the case Hafiz Uddin Dewan on July 25. Mysteriously from July 25, 2009 onwards, the prosecution moved at a snail’s pace in producing witnesses in the court. This state of affairs continued till December 2015. During that period, the prosecution did not produce any witness in the court. The case was transferred to the Chittagong divisional special judge’s court on January 20, 2016, to speed up the proceedings. On June 26, 2016, housing and public works minister Mosharraf f Hossain and Premier University vice-chancellor Dr Anupam Sen gave their statements, while veteran journalist Anjun Kumer Sen and victim Ajit Sarker’s wife Shefali Sarker gave their testimonies on July 31, 2016.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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