A hearing on the death reference of the convicts in the August 21, 2004 grenade attack cases and the appeals of the convicts in jail will begin soon.
The work of preparing the necessary "paper book" – all documents related to the cases, including the judgments of the lower court put together in a book form–has been completed for the hearing.
BG Press has prepared a separate paper book for each accused and sent it to the High Court on August 16.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that steps would be taken for holding the hearing soon.
"It is one of the most shocking incidents in history," he told The Business Standard. "Therefore, the state will soon appeal to the chief justice for a hearing on the appeals and death references on a priority basis."
Asked when the application would be filed, the attorney general said, "I can't say this. But the initiative will be taken very soon."
However, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, one of the defence counsels in the cases, said that death references and jail appeals are usually heard in the High Court as per list. In that case, the appeals and death references filed earlier will be heard first.
He said that ahead of these appeals and death reference applications, several hundred death references and appeals were pending in the High Court.
"It would be inconsistent if the hearing of the August 21 cases was held on a priority basis without settling the earlier ones first. Therefore, it would be logical to take the initiative to hear this case after a settlement of the previous cases," he added.
Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said, "Because every murder is a murder, there is no separate definition in the law of a sensational or normal murder."
For his part, the attorney general said that the incident was carried out to wipe out a political party, including its leaders. This is a sensitive case. Therefore, the hearing of this case is under special observation.
"But the case is very big. The testimony of many witnesses has been taken. The number of the accused is also large. So it will take time even after the hearing starts. Legal opportunities will be given to everyone," he added.
That is why the hearing will be held on a priority basis, the attorney general said.
Supreme Court spokesperson and Special Officer (District Judge) Saifur Rahman told The Business Standard that on August 18, the paper books reached the relevant benches of the High Court. Now a hearing will be held on it after the chief justice assigns a bench.
On 21 August 2004, a grenade attack at a rally of the then Leader of the Opposition and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital left 24 people killed. Hundreds more were injured.
Sheikh Hasina narrowly survived the attack. The most brutal and barbaric attack in history took place at an anti-terrorism rally in front of the Awami League's central office.
On October 10, 2018, the court pronounced its verdict in two cases under the murder and explosives act in connection with the most brutal murder perpetrated 16 years ago. Nineteen people were awarded the death sentence, 19 others were sentenced to life imprisonment and 11 were sentenced to various terms.
Later, the accused appealed against the verdict separately. On the other hand, the judicial court sent documents to the High Court for hearing the death references of the convicts sentenced to death.
The matter is now pending in the High Court. A High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman on January 13 last year accepted the appeals and death references of the convicts in both the cases for hearing.
The High Court's approval is required to carry out the execution of a convict. This is called a "death reference".
The normal functioning of the High Court was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic. When the 53 benches of the High Court were reconstituted on August 12, the chief justice gave jurisdiction to two benches to hear death references and jail appeals.
Lawyer Abdur Rashid Mollah, who is defending six accused, including Pakistani national Abdul Majed Bhat in court, and Mia Mohammad Idi Amin, counsel for three, accused including Maulana Abdus Salam, said that they are also preparing for the hearing.
Fourteen years after the incident, 19 people, including former minister of state for home Lutfuzzaman Babar, former deputy education minister Abdus Salam Pintu, former DGFI chief Major General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, former director general of National Security Intelligence Brigadier General Abdur Rahim and Hanif Paribahan owner Mohammad Hanif were sentenced to death.
Nineteen people, including BNP acting chairman and former prime minister Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman and former prime minister's (Khaleda Zia) political secretary Harish Chowdhury and leaders and activists of the banned militant group Harkatul Jihad were sentenced to life imprisonment by Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 Judge Shahed Nur Uddin.
Judgments in both the cases were announced at the same time.
In the murder case, 19 people were sentenced to death, 19 to life imprisonment and 11 to various terms of imprisonment.
In the case filed under the Explosives Act, 19 people were sentenced to death and 19 others were given life imprisonment.
These 38 people were sentenced to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment under another section of the Explosives Act.
Apart from Babar, Pintu, Rezzakul, Rahim and Hanif, the other convicts sentenced to death are Huji leader Maulana Tajuddin (Abdus Salam Pintu's brother), HuJi founder Maulana Sheikh Abdus Salam, Kashmir-based militant leader Yusuf Bhat alias Abdul Majed Bhat (Pakistani national), Lashkar-E-Taiba leader Abdul Malek alias Golam Mohammad alias GM, HuJI leader Maulana Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid, Mahibullah alias Mofizur Rahman alias Avi (brother of Mufti Hannan), Maulana Abu Saeed alias Dr Zafar, Abul Kalam Azad alias Bulbul, Jahangir Alam, Hafez Maulana Abu Taher (Tajuddin's brother), Hussain Ahmed Tamim, Moinuddin Sheikh alias Mufti Moin alias Abu Zandal alias Masum Billah, Rafiqul Islam alias Sabuj alias Khalid Saifullah alias Shamim alias Rashed and Mohammad Ujjal alias Ratan.
These 19 people were sentenced to death in both the cases.
Apart from Tarique Rahman and Harish Chowdhury, the other convicts sentenced to life imprisonment are former BNP MP Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, HuJI leader Shahadat Ullah Jewel, Maulana Abdur Rauf alias Abu Omar Humaira alias Pir Sahib, Maulana Sabbir Ahmed alias Hannan Sabbir, Arif Hasan Suman alias Abdur Razzak, Hafez Maulana Yahya, Abu Bakr alias Hafez alias Selim Hawladar, Md Ariful Islam alias Arif (former commissioner of Ward 53 of Dhaka City Corporation), Mahibul Muttakin alias Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin alias Mursalin, Md Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badr, Md Iqbal, Md Liton alias MaulanaLiton, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman, Babu alias Ratul Babu alias Ratul (Pintu's brother).
In both the cases, the 19 were sentenced to life in prison. Everyone sentenced to death and life imprisonment was again sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to assassinate Sheikh Hasina and others.
Besides, two former inspectors general of police, Mohammad Ashraful Huda and Shahudul Haque, were sentenced to two years' rigorous imprisonment in the murder case.
They were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for giving shelter to offenders and another two years' rigorous imprisonment for trying to save the offenders from punishment. However, the verdict said that both the punishments would run concurrently.
Lt Commander (retd) Saiful Islam Duke (nephew of Khaleda Zia), Lt Col (retd) Saiful Islam Joarder and Major General (retd) ATM Amin were sentenced to two years in prison each on charges of sheltering criminals.
Each of them was sentenced to two more years in prison for helping Maulana Tajuddin to flee abroad.
Former deputy inspector general of police Khan Saeed Hasan and the then Superintendent of Police Mohammad Obaidur Rahman Khan were also sentenced to two years in prison for sheltering criminals and two years for protecting them. The two were sentenced to two more years of rigorous imprisonment for destroying evidence in the cases.
Former IGP Khodabox Chowdhury, the investigating officer of the early part of the case (during the BNP period), former SP Ruhul Amin, former ASP Abdur Rashid and Munshi Atiqur Rahman were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for saving the offenders from punishment and sentenced to three years in prison for forcing people to make false confessions.
There are 18 fugitives, including Tarique Rahman and Harish Chowdhury in this case. They did not get a chance to appeal. The other fugitives include Mohammad Hanif and Maulana Tajuddin.
Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, Ratul Babu, Mahibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badr, Mohammad Iqbal, Maulana Liton, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman and Mufti Abdul Hai are the fugitives who have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Besides, former army officer Saiful Islam Joardar, ATM Amin, former DIG Khan Hasan Saeed, former SP Mohammad Obaidur Rahman are also absconding.
The 37,385-page document of the verdict of the case was sent to the High Court on November 27, 2018.
Of the documents, the verdict in the murder case covers 369 pages and that in the explosives case covers 356 pages. Other documents include statements and cross-examination of witnesses of the state and the accused, statements of witnesses given to the investigating officer, arguments, statements of defence, confessions of the accused in court, appearances of the accused and the state in the tribunal and petitions.
Supreme Court spokesman Saifur Rahman said a separate paper book has been prepared for each accused, which includes 37,385 pages of documents.