A Dhaka court on Wednesday sentenced four members of the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to death for killing renowned Bangladeshi writer and Dhaka University Professor Humayun Azad about 18 years ago.
The convicts are top JMB members Mizanur Rahman alias Minhaj Mizan alias Shaon alias Shakib, Anwar Alam alias Anwar, Salehin alias Salahuddin alias Sadeqin, and Nur Mohammad alias Shamim. They were also fined Tk50,000 each.
"The accused carried out bombings and attacks on writers and free-thinkers to destabilise the country. Those atrocities had tarnished the image of Bangladesh all over the world. It is a shame for the nation," the judge told a packed courtroom.
Of the four convicts, Salehin and Nur Mohammad are on the run, while Mizanur and Anwar are behind bars. The court said the convicts can appeal to the High Court within seven days if they wish.
Before the verdict was announced, Mizanur and Anwar were produced in the court. They were silent during and after the verdict was announced.
The court noted that the state has been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the attack on a prominent writer like Humayun Azad.
"The heinous crime committed by the accused is unforgivable. And since there is no scope for showing any sympathy for those accused, they are sentenced to the highest punishment," the judge said.
Humayun Azad was hacked and severely injured by assailants on 27 February 2004 at around 9pm when he was returning home from Ekushey Book Fair. His brother Manjur Kabir filed a case with Ramna Police Station the next day, terming the attack an attempted murder.
After recovering from the injuries, Prof Humayun Azad went to Germany in August of that year to study on a scholarship. He died there a few days later.
The investigation officer of the attempted murder case then applied for attachment of Section 302 (murder) of the Penal Code in the case and the court granted it.
On 14 January 2007, the investigating officer filed the charge-sheet against five accused. The charges were framed in the same year. As an accused Rakibul Hasan alias Hafiz Mahmud died, he was excluded from the case.
Dhaka Metropolitan Court Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu told reporters that the militants have received appropriate punishment and the state is satisfied with the verdict.
Defendant's lawyer Faruk Ahmed termed the death sentence to his clients "one-sided". He told reporters they will challenge the judgement in the High Court.
Manjur Kabir, plaintiff of the case and Humayun Azad's younger brother, told The Business Standard over phone that there is no reason to be satisfied with the verdict. "Because, the main culprit of this murder is Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. My brother spoke about him in his deathbed statement. But his name is not in the case."