KHALEDA WAS ‘SILENT’
Mintu Chowdhury and Mithun Chowdhury, Chittagong Bureau, bdnews24.com
The special court that heard the Chittagong arms haul cases has observed in its verdict that the Prime Minister of the time, Khaleda Zia, was silent when informed about the incident.
Chittagong Special Tribunal-1 judge SM Mojibur Rahman on Thursday delivered the verdict condemning 14 of the accused to death in one of the two cases over the 2004 incident.
The death-row convicts include Khaleda-led Cabinet’s Industries Minister and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Motiur Rahman Nizami and former State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar.
In the judgment, the court focused on Khaleda’s role. He said chief of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Sadiq Hasan Rumi, was directly under the Prime Minister.
“The then Prime Minister was silent when Sadique informed her of the arms haul. Without reacting, she said an investigation committee would be formed later,” the judgment has observed.
Another five-member committee led by the State Minister for Home was formed. Its member DGFI Director Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury was later accused in the case.
The judge said three of the committee’s members had testified.
Many of the accused were members of the armed forces and those holding important government positions, said the judge.
The state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Limited (CUFL) is under the Industry Ministry. It has been proven that Babar had influenced the probe as the State Minister for Home.
Jamaat chief Nizami and Babar had claimed they were innocent.
“In my view, there is no option to show leniency to those who are responsible. Hence, I’m giving the highest punishment,” Chittagong Metropolitan Sessions Judge and Special Tribunal-1 judge Rahman said.
The verdict said Nizami’s secretary Shoaib Ahmed and BCIC chief Maj Gen Imamuzzaman had testified against him.
“The verdict has mentioned whatever the people working in the organisations under him had said.”
About Babar, judge Rahman said: “Five men arrested from the spot were released at his (Babar) order. He had come to Chittagong, saw the weapons, held meetings and ordered the officials not to reveal anything to the media.”
Both Babar and Nizami had dubbed the cases as politically motivated.
Rejecting their claims, the judge said none of the witnesses belonged to their rival political parties.
“Their (the accused) argument did not seem acceptable since the witnesses in these cases are all military and civil officials,” he said.
Detectives’ relations with Paresh Barua
The April 2, 2004 arms haul was the biggest in Bangladesh’s history.
Judge Rahman observed that a small cantonment could have been armed with the weapons seized.
It has been proven that the arms and ammunition were intended for the Indian separatist organisation, ULFA, and that several top government officials were aware of it.
ULFA’s military wing chief Paresh Barua has also been sentenced to death in the cases. He, however, is absconding and his whereabouts are not known.
The verdict has also brought to light the ‘close ties’ between top intelligence officials and the ULFA.
The judge said the NSI and the DGFI were two very important intelligence wings of Bangladesh.
Analyses of deposition by witnesses and the gathered evidence had made it clear that several important officials of the two intelligence organisations were involved.
“It is clear from the witness deposition and evidence and from the (detectives’) statements implicating one another that they had a close relation with ULFA leader Paresh Barua,” he said.
The fourteen, who got death sentences, include former NSI Director (Security) Wing Commander (rtd) Shahabuddin, former NSI Director General (DG) Brigadier General (rtd) Md Abdur Rahim, former NSI DG Major General (rtd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, former NSI Deputy Director (Technical) Major (rtd) Liakat Hossain, and former NSI field officer Akbar Hossain Khan.
“The Director General of an important organisation like the NSI, accompanied by his wife, went on a tour of Dubai with Paresh Barua. Detectives used to hold meetings with Paresh Barua and Anup Chetia.
“Maj (rtd) Liakat Hossain held an important post during the ‘Operation Clean Heart’ (in Bangladesh). He used to be touch with various separatists in the country. On the night of the incident (arms haul), he had posed as Abul Hossain and threatened police.
“All of these are based on witness deposition and evidence,” the judge said.
Judge Rahman came to the court amid tight security at around 12:17pm on Thursday and went out after reading out the verdict in 21 minutes.
Fourteen had been sentenced to death under Special Power Act and the life sentences were given under in the Arms Act.
As the BNP-Jamaat affiliated lawyers held an agitation, Judge Rahman said the verdict could be challenged in court.
“There’s no means of showing any leniency to any of the accused; there is no chance of treating the cases as anything other arms cases.
“That’s why the accused, found guilty of the crimes, have been handed down the highest punishment,” he said.
JANUARY 30, 2015