Chaitanya Chandra Haldar, the state-appointed defence lawyer for Hanif Paribahan’s absconding owner, pointed out during the August 21 grenade attack case hearing that one needs to register his or her name when entering the residence of a minister.
“Tarique Rahman was no petty leader that he would have needed to go to Abdus Salam Pintu’s house to hatch conspiracies,” he said during Wednesday's hearing.
He was presenting arguments for Hanif Paribahan’s owner Md Hanif.
“We do not know where he is but his family may know. Questions may arise why he is on the run. Bangabandhu’s daughter and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the victim of the incident. He (Hanif) may be scared because of that,” Chaitanya said.
“Being on the run does not mean that an accused is guilty,” he added.
During his arguments, the lawyer pointed out that names must be registered before entering the residence of a minister. Police personnel guard the house.
The state has failed to produce any witness who had seen Hanif enter the house or could clearly say when and where the grenade attack was planned, Chaitanya said.
“None of the witnesses said they had seen Hanif. Every one of them said that they had learnt from news reports that Hanif and other accused had met and planned the August 21 grenade attack at the Hawa Bhaban,” he said.
“But Mufti Hannan in his confessional statement said that Hawa Bhaban is Banani while Abdus Salam Pintu’s official residence is in Dhanmondi. His whole statement is contradictory.
“Nineteen witnesses also said that Tarique Rahman had held the meeting at Hawa Bhaban. But Mufti Hannan showed Dhanmondi.”
The defence lawyer said Md Hanif did not go to Hawa Bhaban, noting: “The witnesses are not saying that he had gone to Hawa Bhaban. The Dhanmondi issue came up in Mufti Hannan’s second confessional statement.”
When Speedy Trial Tribunal 1 Judge Shahed Nur Uddin asked the lawyer to explain, Chaitanya said: “Mufti Hannan issued a confessional statement before the court on April 7, 2011 where he said, ‘we went to Abdus Salam Pintu’s official residence in Dhanmondi. Pintu, Lutfozzaman Babar, Mawlana Taj Uddin, commissioner Ariful Islam Arif and Hanif Paribahan’s Hanif were present there. Abdus Salam Pintu and Lutfozzaman Babar said that commissioner Arif and Hanif would provide us with all sorts of assistance and that there would be arrangements for our safety’.”
The lawyer continued: “Nineteen witnesses have said that all the planning, conspiracy and meetings took place at Banani’s Hawa Bhaban. Tarique Rahman did not go to Pintu’s house. He was not such a small-scale leader.”
About the allegation brought against Hanif under section 120/B, Chaitanya said the crime against his client could not be proven.
“What sort of assistance did he provide? Did he provide fund or vehicles or did he hurl grenades? None of the witnesses could precisely say where he was part of the conspiracy. The three charges under the Explosives Act are not applicable against him,” the lawyer added, demanding his client’s acquittal.
The defence counsel for another absconding BNP leader Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, claimed that his client had been implicated in the case by “manipulating legal loopholes” only to harass him politically.
“He was abroad after taking leave from the Speaker when he was accused in the case. He dared not return after being named in the supplementary charge sheet of such a big case,” state-appointed defence counsel Ashraf Ul Alam told the court.
“The August 21 grenade attack is one of the most barbaric incidents in the world. Those involved with this should be punished but pushing an innocent man towards death is a violation of human rights,” he said.
“The prosecution could not prove Kaikobad’s involvement with the case. It also failed to produce evidence against him in the case filed under the Explosives Act. According to the prosecution, Kaikobad was involved in planning the incident but none of the witnesses said that,” the lawyer noted.
Syed Rezaur Rahman, the chief prosecutor of the case, objected to the use of the phrase “manipulating legal loopholes” and requested its withdrawal. When the court sought an explanation from Ashraf, he apologized and later sought his client’s acquittal.
Apart from them, lawyer Khalilur Rahman presented arguments for absconding accused Md Khalil, lawyer Abu Tayeb argued for BNP leader Harris Chowdhury, and lawyer Sakhawat Hossain presented arguments for Anisul Morsalin alias Morsalin.
All of them claimed their clients were innocent and sought their acquittal.
Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal 1 is hearing the defence arguments in the August 21 grenade attack case. The next hearing is scheduled for January 9.
A grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka on August 21, 2004, killed 24 people, including Ivy Rahman, wife of late president Zillur Rahman, and injured more than 300 others. The BNP-Jamaat coalition government was in office then.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the then opposition chief, was the main target of the attack. She survived the attack but her hearing was badly damaged.
Two cases were filed over the attack. Of 52 accused, 23 are behind bars, including former state minister for home Babar, and BNP leader Pintu.
Former IGPs Ashraful Huda, Sahudul Haq and Khoda Boksh Chowdhury, Lt Commander (retd) Saiful Islam Duke, former investigation officers special superintendant Ruhul Amin and senior ASP Munshi Atikur Rahman, and ASP Abdur Rashid are among eight who are out on bail.
Eighteen 18 others are still absconding, including BNP Senior Vice-Chairperson Tarique Rahman, BNP leader Harris Chowdhury, a former member of parliament Kaikobad, major general (retd) ATM Amin, and lieutenant colonel (retd) Saiful Islam Joarder.
Three other accused – Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, Mufti Hannan and his associate Sharif Saidul Alam Bipul – have already been executed in separate cases.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune