• Friday, Jan 24, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:05 am

A tense courtroom on verdict day

  • Published at 12:41 am November 28th, 2019
Hoey Artisan Verdict
After being escorted to the police prison van, most of the seven convicts were heard shouting:’We are soldiers of Allah’ Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

About 25 police members including 10 women were deployed inside the courtroom

Around 11:40am, everyone present in the courtroom were removed as police swept the room clean with metal detectors to check for possible explosives or other life-threatening elements.

Journalists from local and international media, prosecutors and defence counsels, relatives of the victims and accused alike, and a handful of foreign observers were allowed to re-enter after the swipe.

About 25 police members including 10 women were deployed inside the courtroom.

At 12pm, all eight accused were produced at the courtroom handcuffed, under a heavy police escort and were locked at the dock.

Also Read - Revisiting the descent into darkness

Despite such a tense situation, Jahangir Hossain alias Rajib Gandhi appeared to be in a fine mood as he maintained a calm demeanour while the rest were quiet.

As it happens in any major incident —tragedy or not, taking pictures, mostly selfies, gained momentum as the attendance at the courtroom got busy clicking photos on their cell phone.

Its entrance was locked from inside and onlookers aiming to witness the historic and sensational verdict were sneaking a peek through the already packed courtroom.

Special security measures at the Dhaka Court premises ahead of Holey Artisan attack verdict on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Judge Md Mojibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal of Dhaka took his seat at 12:05pm, putting the entire courtroom into pin-drop silence.

Subsequently, he asked the victim's family members to come frontline so they can listen to the verdict. But their bid to come aforehand went in vain as not a single inch was vacant.

Eventually, the judge started reading out the verdict and was finished at 12:17pm.

In the 12-minute span of reading out the verdict, he upheld his observations, terming the convicts unworthy of clemency.

Also Read - Militancy will never win

He said: "In this case, justice will be ensured through the highest punishment of the convicts and [through which] the relatives of the ill-fated will get minimum peace.

"Through the stigmatized attack, the militants tried to assassinate the character of a non-communal Bangladesh. Foreigners suffer from lack of security in Bangladesh," he said.

The positive image of Bangladesh, which is known for its peace and harmony, was somewhat tarnished, the judge further said, adding: "From that sense, the accused cannot get mercy in terms of being sentenced."

Upon completing his observation, he sentenced seven of the militants to death and acquitted one accused.

Police escort one of the Holey Artisan attack convicts at a Dhaka court premises on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka TribuneReactions from the militants

Immediate after the verdict, criminals claimed that they were denied justice, with some of them shouting “Allahu Akbar” while still inside the courtroom.

Rakibul Islam Regan, one of the eight defendants, who had been wearing a knit black praying cap flipped it inside out revealing the logo of the Islamic State (IS) after the verdict.

"We did nothing wrong," said Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, without knowing that he was already exonerated from the charges brought against him.

Also Read - Please empty your pockets

Convicted Hadisur Rahman Sagor said he did not know anything about the IS and was never not involved in the attack.

When the prisoners were hauled back into a van to be returned to prison, another condemned – Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi – was also seen wearing the IS logo-emblazoned cap.

Even after being escorted to the police prison van, most of the seven convicts were heard shouting:"We are soldiers of Caliphate."

They were also chanting "We have nothing to fear," with one of them telling the rest not to be "frustrated."

Then the prison van left the court.

Meanwhile, convict Shariful Islam’s father Abdul Hakim told reporters that his son is "innocent" and whatever he did was "right.”

Heightened security

A multi-layer security consisting members from police, detectives in both uniform and plainclothes, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were deployed.

Also Read - Minute-by-minute: 7 to die for Holey Artisan attack, another acquitted

Many from the law enforcement were seen armed, to avoid any unprecedented situation inside or outside the court premises.

On the ground floor of the court, there were two metal detectors. After the accused were taken inside the courtroom, none were allowed to enter the six-storey building.

On the fourth floor, where the verdict was pronounced, there was another metal detector with about hundred police members barring even journalists from entering the courtroom.

Scores of journalists of national and international media gathered on the court premises, where Dhaka Tribune noticed a member from a convict’s and another from a victim's family.