The 16th anniversary of the gruesome grenade attack on an Awami League (AL) anti-terrorism rally in the capital on August 21 in 2004 will be observed tomorrow with heavy hearts.
The gruesome grenade attack was carried out at an anti-terrorism rally of Awami League (AL) on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital on August 21 in 2004 aiming to bankrupt the party leadership during the BNP-Jamaat alliance government.
With the grace of the almighty, the then opposition leader and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other front ranking leaders of AL narrowly escaped the carnage.
But, 24 people including the then Women Affairs secretary of Awami League and wife of late Bangladesh president Zillur Rahman were killed and over 500 others injured in the attack and many of them became crippled for life.
Those others killed in the barbaric grenade attack included the then opposition leader's personal security guard Lance Corporal (retd) Mahbubur Rashid, Abul Kalam Azad, Rezina Begum, Nasir Uddin Sardar, Atique Sarkar, Abdul Kuddus Patwari, Aminul Islam Moazzem, Belal Hossain, Mamun Mridha, Ratan Shikdar, Liton Munshi, Hasina Mamtaz Reena, Sufia Begum, Rafiqul Islam (Ada Chacha), Mostaque Ahmed Sentu, Md Hanif, Abul Kashem, Zahed Ali, MomenAli, M Shamsuddin and Ishaque Miah.
Prominent among those suffered serious splinter injuries included Sheikh Hasina, Amir Hossain Amu, Abdur Razzak, Suranjit Sengupta, Obaidul Quader, Advocate Sahara Khatun, Mohammad Hanif, Prof Abu Sayeed, and AFM BahauddinNasim.
The nation's long wait seeking justice of the brutal grenade attack that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 500 finally ended as a special court pronounced the verdict of a case filed over the attack on October 10, 2018.
The court awarded death sentence to 19 people including former junior home minister Lutfuzzaman Babar and life imprisonment to 19 including ex-premier Khaleda Zia's fugitive son Tarique Rahman in connection with the grenade attack.
With the verdict pronounced by Dhaka's 1st Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Shahed Nur Uddin, the nation was freed from stigma of committing most shocking crime in the political history.
Later, the lower court on November 27, 2018, sent a 37,385-page case document including the judgement to the High Court for further proceedings.
The High Court on January 13, 2019, accepted appeals filed by the convicts in two cases filed over the August 21 grenade attack for hearing.
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 submitted the charge sheet. The court on September 29, 2008, framed charges in the case.
Investigation Officer and also Additional Deputy Inspector General of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police on July 2, 2011, submitted a supplementary charge sheet before the court and the court on March 18, 2012, framed charges afresh after taking the new charge sheet into cognizance.
Fifty two people were held accused in the case while prosecution suggested an influential quarter of the then BNP regime including party's senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman masterminded its shocking plot engaging militant outfit HuJI and subsequently made desperate efforts to protect the assailants.
Three of the accused top HuJI leader Mufty Abdul Hannan, Sharif Shahedul Bipul and then Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, however, were by now executed after trial in other cases.
A total of 31 accused including two former ministers faced the trial in person while 18 including Tarique Rahman were tried in absentia as they are believed to be staying abroad.
Tarique, now in London, and 17 others including several intelligence officials were earlier declared "absconding" as they were on the run to evade justice.
Eight suspects including three former police chiefs were on bail as the trial was underway while the court on September 18, 2018, scrapped their bail and ordered their confinement in jail with due facilities they deserved under law.
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 prison 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.
They all were fined Taka 50,000 each in the case lodged under the Explosive Substances Act.
The court also sentenced Lutfuzzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu, Mowlana Tajuddin, Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, Brigadier General Abdur Rahim, Md Hanif, Mowlana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Abdul Mazed Bhat, Abdul Malek, Mowlana Shawkat Osman, Mohibullah, Mowalana Abu Sayeed, Abul Kalam Azad, Md Jahangir Alam, Hafez Mowlana Abu Taher, Hossain Ahammed Tamim, Moin Uddin Sheikh, Md Rafikul Islam and Md Uzzal to 20-year imprisonment and fined
Taka 50,000 each in the case lodged under the Explosive Substances Act.
In the same case, the court sentenced Tarique Rahman, Haris Chowdhury, Qazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Kaikobad, Mufti Shafikur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai, Shahadat Ullah, Mowlana Abdur Rouf, Mowlana Sabbir Ahmed, Arif Hasan, Hafez Mowlana Yahia, Abu Bokor, Ariful Islam Arif, Mohibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Md Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Md Iqbal, Mowlana Liton, and Ratul Ahmed Babu to 20-year imprisonment and fined Taka 50,000 each.
During the BNP-Jamaat regime, the investigators were trying to divert the probe to a wrong direction to save the real culprits. Media reports brought to public attention the cooked-up story of Joj Mia by the then CID officials to derail the investigation.
The visible attempt to frustrate the case by the then BNP-led regime prompted the subsequent interim government to order a fresh investigation into the case.