The nation is set to observe the 15th anniversary of the gruesome grenade attack on an Awami League (AL) anti-terrorism rally in the capital on August 21 in 2004 tomorrow with heavy hearts.
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 Oct 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 the stigma of committing the most shocking crime in the political history.
The gruesome grenade attack was carried out at an anti-terrorism rally of Awami League (AL) at Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital on Aug 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 other 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, Momen Ali, 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 Bahauddin Nasim.
Marking the anniversary, the ruling AL, it's front and associate bodies and its left-leaning allies, and other political parties, social-cultural and professional organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes across the country.
AL and its associate bodies will place wreaths at a makeshift altar in front of the party’s central office at Bangabandhu Avenue at 9 am tomorrow.
A discussion will be held at Krishibid Institution of Bangladesh (KIB) at Khamarbari in city’s Farmgate area at 4 pm.
Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to chair the discussion. Intellectuals and national leaders will address it.
Two separate cases, one for murder and another under the 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 the 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.
During the BNP-Jamaat regime, the investigators were trying to divert the probe in the 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.