Evidence from the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally was intentionally destroyed while a police investigation into the incident was diverted along other avenues, the CID Additional Deputy Inspector General has said.
Abdul Kahar Akand, the officer tasked with investigating the August 21 attempt on the life of then opposition leader and current prime minister Sheikh Hasina, made the allegations in an interview with the Bangla Tribune.
“The then investigation officers knew that Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Huji) militants had repeatedly been trying to kill Sheikh Hasina but the officers did not show any interest in the matter during the first phase of the investigation,” Akand said.
“The perpetrators wanted to destroy the Awami League and they made repeated attempts to kill Sheikh Hasina in a bid to turn the country into a militant state. Many people from the then ruling party were involved in the conspiracy.”
At least 24 leaders and activists, including the Awami League’s Women Affairs Secretary and late President Zillur Rahman’s wife, Ivy Rahman, were killed. Up to 300 others were injured in the attack, including Hasina - whose father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975.
Motijheel police station’s then Sub-Inspector Sharif Faruk Ahmed filed a case over the incident and the CID’s then Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Abdur Rashid, was assigned as the investigation officer.
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina place a floral wreath at the temporary memorial for the victims of August 21 grenade attack on the premises of Krishibid Institution Bangladesh in Dhaka on Monday Focus Bangla
However, the investigation team tried to divert the case to another direction.
They first tried to trap a youth named Shoibal Saha Partho, before arresting Joj Miah from Noakhali and extracting a false confession that an underworld gang, called the Seven-Star Group, had carried out the attack.
Amid mounting criticism of the investigation, Abdur Rashid was replaced as the case officer by ASP Munshi Atikur Rahman. However, the new investigation officer also followed the footsteps of his predecessor.
ASP Fazlul Kabir then became the CIO. He revealed that Huji carried out the attack and that BNP leader Abdus Salam Pintu was also involved in the plot.
On June 11, 2008, the CID submitted a charge sheet accusing 22 over the attack.
When the Awami League came to power in 2009, the court on August 3 ordered a further investigation of the case following a petition filed by the state side. Abdul Kahar Akand was appointed as the investigation officer at that time.
CID Additional Deputy Inspector General Akand said there was no information about the source of grenades used in the attack or about the perpetrators named on the previous charge sheet.
During his investigation, however, Akand found that evidence from the incident had been destroyed.
“We learnt that the grenades were brought from Pakistan. Former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and his brother Tajuddin had collected the grenades from one Abdul Majed Bhat,” he said.
Akand said Majed Bhat was later arrested and revealed the information in his confessional statement.
Akand also said Huji chief Mufti Hannan and his associates had maintained communication with Hawa Bhaban - the BNP chairperson’s former political office - via the then home state minister, Lutfozzaman Babar.
“(But) Mufti Hannan’s name was not included in the case even after he had admitted that he was involved in the attack,” he said.
“I think previous investigation officers created an obstruction to justice.”
After further investigation, Akand submitted the supplementary charge sheet on July 3, 2011.
It named 30 more people including BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman, ex-home state minister Lutfozzaman Babar, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s political secretary Harris Chowdhury, Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, several officers of DGFI and NSI, and three investigation officers.
Akand said 19 of the accused are still at large and that red notices had been issued for those thought to be in hiding abroad.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune